Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm Sure It's a Coincidence....

I just paid off the credit card I use to make purchases and now the Bank of America website is having problems. Oopsies.

I may be offline again for the next day or two, while I re-install Windows on my laptop. While getting things updated, I managed to damage the registry that controls my CD/DVD-RW in my laptop, probably when I was trying to update drivers. Needless to say, this borks my ability to install the rest of the software I would like to use. I'd rather not re-install the world again, but it's probably the best way to make sure I end up with a stable system at the end of the exercise. I'd rather re-install everything now than end up re-installing everything several months down the road, possibly after losing data.

Today I debated going out to the bookstore for coffee and reading, but with the weather starting out as rain until noon and finishing with dropping temperatures and rain/snow/sleet this afternoon, I think I'd rather stay indoors and read or spin/knit. I may decide to have a Thin Man or Lord of the Rings movie marathon while I'm at it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Must Get My Eyes Checked

It's not as bad as it sounds, but I am on my last disposable contact lens for my right eye. I'd rather not be half blind before I make the appointment. I have discovered in the past year or so that I very much dislike disposable lenses. I realize that they are supposed to be more comfortable than regular daily wear lenses, but there is a distinct difference in comfort between my left and right eyes (daily wear and disposable lenses, respectively), with the left eye being much more happy, especially by the end of the day. I also rub my right eye a heck of a lot more, which leads to eye irritation, not to mention smudged mascara. (While any degree of smudged mascara is sub-optimal, it would at least look better if BOTH eyes were smudged, not just the right one.)

Day 3 of Low Fat Vegan Food

Today's breakfast was again oatmeal with blackberries and I added a couple teaspoonsful of ground flax seed. Lunch was mixed frozen veggies and a bowl of veggie-adzuki bean-black bean chili, with an apple for dessert. Dinner was more refried bean and mushroom, onion and chipotle soft tacos with salsa. A little bit later I had a bowl of frozen corn cooked with some Old Bay Seasoning for a kick to the flavor.

Today's craving was for cucumber rolls. I got a text message about wasabi and all I could think of was sushi. I have nori and wasabi powder. Just need to track down a cucumber and some short-grain brown rice. I haven't made cucumber rolls in probably a year. I may add that to the menu for the week after next. Next week's menus is already booked solid. I think I'll make a meat(less) loaf on Sunday and then eat meat(less) loaf and meat(less) loaf sammiches. I really really like Ezekiel 4:9 sesame bread. It makes great toast and I think it would make a marvelous meat(less) loaf sammich with some lettuce and spicy mustard. (Yes, I'm still on a kick about sesame-flavored things.)

Hooray for Me!
I just paid off my car. With any luck, the deities in charge of such things will keep it from getting destroyed in the next two years. My tax return showed up today as well, so I'll be paying off my birthday trip expenses in one large chunk. Now that I have some extra cash each month, thanks to a missing car payment, I'll be hammering hard at my one credit card balance and get it off the books by the end of the year. Even more Yay! Then I'll really hammer on building up my savings so that I have 6-8 months salary stockpiled. After that, I'll be taking aim at either my mortgage or my student loans, depending upon which has the higher interest rate. w00t! I feel like such a grown-up! :-)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interesting Overheard Comment

"I don't know what the bank's problem is. Just because my kid and kid-in-law don't have jobs doesn't mean they shouldn't loan them the money to buy a house."

And people wonder why the housing market tanked because of bad mortgage lending decisions? O.o

I dunno about you, but if I didn't have a job *in hand*, I'd seriously consider finding a job my first priority, then buy a house as a reward for finding the job(s). Then again, maybe these kids have relatives who will pay the bills for them if the job thing doesn't work out before the payments start or they've already won the lottery (surely there's some place on a mortgage application to put down your net worth when you don't have a job, but do have oodles of money).

Pancakes

I am having major pancake cravings tonight. Nice, hot, slightly gooey in the middle pancakes with fruit. I suspect this is partly due to my discovery today that I've been eating a whopping 900-1000 calories a day this week. That's really not good. Definitely need to work on getting that to at least 1500 and probably 1700 would be better if I keep working out consistently. It's not quite a pancake, but perhaps I'll have a bit of peanut butter toast as an after dinner snack.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 1 Complete!

I made it through the first day with no added sugar, no added fat and no animal products! I had oatmeal with blackberries for breakfast, along with some black coffee (had about 1/2 tsp Splenda in the first mug and no sweetener in the second). Lunch was bean/veggie chili, cauliflower and an apple. Dinner was a new recipe for soft tacos with mushrooms, onions and chipotle peppers. I made the tacos with some fat-free refried beans too. I should have had some veggies and fruit for dinner, but I wasn't really hungry. I also made a pot of sesame-spinach soup for later this week. I don't think I'm eating enough green stuff these days.

Last weekend I made some seitan. I haven't yet figured out what I'll do with it. I might make some BBQ sauce and try it baked in sauce. I also have a recipe for Szechuan Tofu that would probably work just fine with seitan chunks in place of the tofu. My favorite Chili-Lime Tofu recipe from Vegan Yum Yum would probably work ok with seitan too. I should probably freeze about half the seitan I have, since I probably won't get it all eaten before it becomes a science project. I've not even tasted any of it yet. I may discover that I cannot stand either the taste or the texture of the stuff. It's all just an adventure, isn't it? :-)

One thing I did really want this afternoon was a crunchy snack. The vending machine was out of pretzels, which is just as well. I got to thinking about healthy crunchy snacks and decided that some whole grain crackers with hummus and cucumber or red bell pepper slices would have been delicious. A cracker with sun-dried tomato spread (with or without hummus) and the veggies would have been awesome too. I'll have to consider snack options when I shop on Friday. Thanks to Stefaneener's suggestion, I'll track down lunch-sized soy milk cartons too. Yummy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Decisions, Decisions....

So, I made arrangements to ship back the Mac video card that didn't fix my computer. The nice folks at the parts place asked if I wanted to exchange it for a new logic board, since we're now hypothesizing that the problem is a bad logic board. I've already paid $180 plus shipping for the video card. The logic board will cost a total of $615. Or, I could send them my logic board for refurbishing and only have to pay $470. (Apparently a used, pre-refurb logic board is only worth $150, but it's worth $470 after refurb.) I'm trying to decide what I want to do. Part of me says don't fix a 5 year old computer for even $470, but part of me says $470 for a running back-up machine is cheaper than $4K for a new one. Decisions, decisions....

I can afford the new board, but I'm not sure I want to send in the old one. If I'm wrong about the problem being the logic board, I'm not sure I can get the original board back and I'd be mighty tweaked to have spent $470 and not have a working machine. The other issue is that I don't know how difficult it is to replace the logic board in a Mac these days. I would rather not inadvertently blow the new board by being inept.

Problem solved! I found a different supplier that sells the board for $279 and it comes with a 90 day warranty. Sounds like a good deal to me. At that price, I can afford to put a new graphics card in the desktop PC too and have TWO backup machines! \o/

Monday, February 23, 2009

Giving It Up

I have decided to give up eating animal products, added sugar and added fat for Lent. This is odd, you say? Yes, it is, given that Lent is definitely not a Buddhist holiday period, but it's a nice finite chunk of time. The other benefit of giving up rich foods during Lent is that I won't really have to make excuses when I turn down various foods. I'll just say that I'm giving it up for Lent and people will nod knowingly and/or give me their condolences.

I've been half-heartedly limiting my added fat intake for some time, but haven't been as strict as I could with packaged foods. My goals are two-fold: to see how difficult it is over approx 7 weeks to go completely vegan and to see how low my cholesterol, LDL and HDL levels can go. I'm already working out 5 days a week, I might as well kick the quality of my food intake into a higher gear too.

The only thing I think will be at all difficult in this process is handling coffee. You see, I drink coffee with milk (non-fat dry milk powder) and sugar. I might allow myself Splenda, but unless I buy a quart of soy or rice milk (and end up throwing most of it away each week), there's no way I know of to put a milk substitute in my coffee. I could try to learn to tolerate black, unsweetened coffee or I could give it up entirely. I expect the caffeine withdrawal period to be unpleasant, though I can moderate that somewhat with diet Pepsi until I can taper off completely.

On Learning Responsibility
A co-worker commented that she finally got her college-bound child to sit down and work on their financial aid application. Apparently said child had lots of socializing to do and wasn't responding to the impending deadlines or nagging. I observed that the method which worked well for me was when my mom explained to me that since I was the one in college that I was going to be responsible for submitting the necessary paperwork on time. She would assist me by supplying any tax/income documents upon request and would provide assistance with the forms on request, but the responsibility was mine to get things finished and submitted by the deadline.

The reply I got from my co-worker was that that method won't work for every child. I disagree. I think it'll work great for all of them. No, not all of them will get the necessary paperwork filled out in time and some may discover that they lose out on financial aid for a semester. This might then lead to having to take a semester (or two) off from school and work to pay their own way. But in the process, the child learns to take responsibility for their lives, their actions and their future. How else will a child learn independence if they are not given the opportunity to act independently, for better or for worse?

The child also learns that there are consequences for their actions and that they need to deal with those consequences, rather than relying on Mommy or Daddy to bail them out. Sooner or later, Mommy and Daddy aren't going to be there and they might need to take care of themselves. I believe that continuing to do a child's work for them when they could do the work themselves teaches them to be dependent on others and fosters a sense of entitlement, where they believe that there is no need for them to do hard work because someone else will always do it for them, whining about it being optional. Allow a child a chance to struggle and see what they can truly accomplish. Hand them everything they want and you merely teach complacency, sloth and ingratitude. For a film example of this, watch Mildred Pierce and study Veda.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

More Computer Woes

You know about the blind Mac (though I now have a plan to recover the data from it). A while ago my gaming box (an older custom-built PC) started to have video card issues. What I didn't know about was that the laptop's HD was going to wake up dead a few days ago with no warning. One new HD later, I'm in the process of re-installing the world. Fortunately I've been doing regular backups, but unfortunately, the last one I did was probably in early January. (Yes, I have a more aggressive back-up policy/schedule now.)

If I can't get the data off the dead HD, I may lose my birthday trip photos, a bunch of knitting patterns, a couple hundred recipes and my 2008 tax return. Some of this stuff I can recover from other sources, some I cannot. Needless to say, if I can't get the data off the drive myself, I will still have to hold onto it in case of IRS audit. Should the IRS come calling, I'll cheerfully hand them the dead HD and have *them* recover my data for me. (What do you bet that I *never* get audited now?)

And as the sprinkles on the cake, the gaming box video card has pretty much died completely now. I'd also forgotten that that computer had started throwing Blue Screens of Death (BSoDs) prior to my switching to the late G5. I am hoping that a new video card might fix the BSoD issue long enough that I'll have a viable backup machine for the next 18 mos. Why 18 mos, you ask? Because it's going to take me that long to save the cash to buy a new G5. Yes, I could buy one today on credit, but I rather like not having debts. Within the next year I will be completely debt free, except for my mortgage and student loans. I intend to keep it that way.

So, the grand total is three dead computers in about three months. One and a half have been resurrected. I'm hoping that I'm done replacing hardware for the next five years.

Today's Amusement
I saw this animated short earlier today. It's quite cute!



The Great Clean-Up of 2009 continues
I didn't do as well this week with staying on top of the daily chores (laundry folded and put away, errands run, etc), but I'm back on track now. I ended up doing a mountain of laundry yesterday and today. Ordinarily I wouldn't have bothered folding it, but I did make myself do the whole job last night.

As I write this, I am pondering a stack of VHS tapes I have collected over the years. These are recordings of miscellaneous television programs which I may or may not have watched. I'm thinking they can all go away. My VCR isn't even connected to my television. I discovered after I moved that connecting the DVD player and VCR to the TV resulted in a crummy image, so I pulled the VCR from the series. I may decide to just get rid of the VCR altogether. I have perhaps a dozen commercial videos that I obviously haven't watched in a while. I could even replace the VHS copies with DVD copies. Recently on the local FreeCycle group, someone was even looking for a VCR for their mother, so I could even send my VCR to a good home!

Today I'm going to declutter under the kitchen sink and in the pantry. I make a point of writing the month/year that I open herbs and spices on the bottles. Given that this is 2009, I could/should probably get rid of anything from 2005 and earlier. I can certainly afford to buy fresher herbs/spices. I should probably take stock of what's in the freezer and get rid of the unrecognizable stuff and anything I haven't used in the last year.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Break Time!

I made a big dent in the mess also known as my knitting/weaving/fiber room. Nearly everything in there is stored inside big Rubbermaid bins. The problem is that I still have too many bins and too much stuff. Until now, I've been unwilling to part with any yarn or fabric. I actually started filling up a bin today with various balls of yarn to take to the GoodWill store. Most of it is yarn that was given to me and I don't expect to ever use. I worked at it in small chunks of time and only worked on one bin at a time. The room is now much neater than it was when I started and I didn't run out of motivation part way through the job!

On top of all that, I have managed to get rid of approximately 35 pounds of stuff today, between the stuff piled in my car for the GoodWill store and the stuff I put in the trash. I added to the pile of paper recycling as well. I also discovered today that Office Depot does electronics recycling!! I may just have a way to get rid of the old Zip drives, cables, keyboards, CRT monitors and other tech garbage. All I have to do is buy a box, load it up and take it back to Office Depot. They'll ship it and have it munched up into useful stuff. Yay!

Blind Mac Still Blind
Well, I've just about run out of ideas for how to fix my Mac. I've put in a new video card. Nothing. I put in a new motherboard battery. Nothing. I've zapped the PRAM. Nothing. About the only thing left to try would be replacing the logic board. This is an expensive exercise and probably not worth throwing more money into a machine that's >5 years old, even if it is a pretty computer and a nice monitor. Now I have to figure out a way to get the data off of it. I'm also going to have to kiss about 5 months of e-mail goodbye since I doubt that any other e-mail client will be able to deal with Apple Mail files. Every freaking time I change machines and e-mail clients I lose e-mail due to incompatibilities. If I knew how to program anything, I'd make an e-mail program interconversion utility.

On that note, I'm going to make myself an omelet and call it a day. Throwing stuff out makes me tired.

Happy Valentine's Day!


A common topic today on several of the message boards I read is to rant, wail and gnash one's teeth about today being Valentine's Day and the ranter/wailer/gnasher being single. One poster went so far as to state that "Cupid is a santimonious prick" whose only purpose appears to be to make this particular person miserable, so he was going to just wallow in his misery. To me this seemed rather silly and I said so. Another poster said it much more eloquently than I:
Just like every other self-appointed "director" of our individual destinies. We give away our power to these $deity, follow their arbitrary rulebooks, find that doesn't work in all the cases where the rulebook says it should, and then continue to bang our heads against the wall of impossibility by continuing our invalid behavior.

And then we get mad. And then we get depressed. But until we tell the $deity and their arbitrary rulebook to shove it - and then *change our behavior* - nothing happens.


Things I do:

1. Every time I see a couple doing something romantic, I smile and approve. My body language changes enormously when I'm around people in relationships that work. I cherish that.

2. I reject the idea of relationship based on looks, or money, or co-dependency, or thrill, or social-norms, or what mommy-and-daddy-want. That's not relationship, that's sexual convenience.

3. I embrace the idea of relationship as a choice. A mutually-agreed-upon-sharing. And I acknowledge that this thing I want is something I must do my part to establish and maintain. And that if I do not do that work, then I have made the choice not to be in relationship - by my actions. Whether I consciously like the consequences of my choice or not is irrelevant. I have made that choice because my actions have created that consequence. $deity be damned.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I No Longer Love Cheese \o/

On a whim, I purchased a block of sharp Cheddar cheese at the beginning of the week. I thought it would be nice to have a cheese sammich with mustard and caramelized onions for dinner this week. I happily made myself a sammich and took a nice biiiiiiiiig bite. Meh. I think it would have tasted better if I'd just eaten the bread, onions and mustard without the cheese. I tried just nibbling on some cheese a few days later. Nope. Still not really tasty. And it's a cheese that I used to find really delicious. (Delicious enough that I'd eat a whole pound of it in just a few days.) Not only did the cheese not taste very good, my head is also stuffed up and I feel sluggish, which seems to be a result that is consistently correlated with consuming lots of dairy products.

This was the first time I've purchased cheese in several months. Lately, even when eating out, I don't eat much cheese or I order my meal without cheese. I think it's a safe bet that I won't be buying cheese again, unless I need cream cheese for baking. Now the only animal products I'm consuming on a regular basis are honey, non-fat dry milk powder (in my coffee or mixed with liquid for baking) and eggs (mostly in baked goods, but sometimes in an omelet), plus whatever hidden animal products are masquerading in commercially prepared foods. Yay!

Speaking of changing eating habits, there's another 50-something year old co-worker's relative who had a 90+% blockage of the left anterior descending (LAD) artery, aka The Widowmaker. Unfortunately, the surgeon couldn't insert a stent and the lining of the artery was damaged during the unblocking procedure, which may or may not lead to scarring and further flow problems. My whole purpose in dramatically reducing my fat intake is to PREVENT placque deposits, so I don't have to have a coronary catheterization procedure. EVER. I'm not interested in having morbidity start in my 50s and then limp through the rest of my life. I'd rather be completely healthy (or at least free of cardiac problems) and active until at least my 80s and preferably until my 90s. I do NOT want to end up a spectator in life and watch from the sidelines. The means to accomplish this aren't terribly onerous and the ends certainly justify them, IMO.

Now I just need to finish fixing my Mac and I'll have a completely successful week! (The new video card came and I STILL can't get a monitor to work. I'm now operating under the hypothesis that the motherboard battery has died. After that, I'll have to resort to taking the machine to a repair person for further diagnostics. I am NOT going to put a new motherboard into a 5 year old Mac.)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

FIRE!

If you've been watching the news at all this weekend, you may have heard about the wildfires in Australia. Victoria is burning. I don't mean a town named Victoria. I mean the state. There are fires elsewhere in eastern Australia as well.

Last night, the Kinglake Complex fire had a front line that was over 100 km long and had burned over 465 square miles (~296,000 acres). NASA has taken photos, but this was taken on January 30, 2009, BEFORE things got bad.

Melbourne's Alfred Hospital (the largest trauma/burn center in the state) has run out of morphine for its burn victims. There are over 90 people confirmed dead at this time and will probably quickly cross 100.

As far as I can tell, the town I used to live in, Kilmore, is still there. Fires started east of town and continued east, joining another fire and creating the Kinglake Complex. My "little brother" DownUnder, Justin Dally, is a firefighter for the CFA. I hope he and the rest of the family are safe. It's already been the weekend from hell down there. I hope it doesn't become the week from hell too.

If you feel so inclined, the next time you have a chat with whatever higher power you chat with, please say a few words for the folks in Australia--both the citizens and the fireys.

These photos came from the galleries at the Herald Sun. (Gallery 1) (Gallery 2)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Happy Ending!

A few days ago, I started The Regulators by Richard Bachman (Stephen King's pseudonym). I was quickly sucked into the story and read it all in about three days. I even had trouble putting it down when it was time to go to bed. It's every bit as good as his work from the 80s and 90s. I haven't been much of a fan of Mr. King's work in the past ten to fifteen years (though I must say I haven't yet tried The Dark Tower series), but I was completely sucked in by this book. It's deliciously creepy without an excess of gore, though there is plenty of that too. The plot is just twisted enough that I didn't quite get it figured out until most of the way through the book and by that point I was completely hooked. There were, perhaps, just a few too many characters and I had some trouble keeping them straight, but they started dying at a fairly quick rate, so that wasn't a problem for too long. Perhaps because this is one of Richard Bachman's books, rather than one of Mr. King's books, it's actually set in Ohio, not Maine. I even had some mildly disturbing dreams since I started reading it and ordinarily I don't have any dreams at all as far as I know. And I only slept with the light on for part of just one night. That's way better than when I first read The Shining.

I was rather surprised to discover that The Regulators has a happy ending. I can't say that I recall ever reading a happy ending in a Stephen King book before, but it was a fitting ending and a good one. There was an earlier place in the book where an ending could have been made that would have been more typical of Mr. King's work, but this ending better suited the characters involved.

Monday, February 02, 2009

I Have Ruined Myself!

I baked my own tortilla chips this weekend from store-bought corn tortillas. They are SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much better than the purchased chips that I could easily skip buying chips now. I wasn't interested in going as far as making the tortillas, then making the chips. That would have required more time and effort than I was willing to devote to the enterprise.

The Wholly Guacamole was delicious. Over three days I ate both packages. Most of it was just chips and guac, but I did put some on a bean burrito on Saturday, for a bit of variety. For all that the guac was my Super Bowl treat, I only had the TV on for the last half of the game and even then I mostly wasn't watching it. I didn't even pay attention to the commercials!

Questions for the Day:
How many US politicians fail to file their income taxes properly if 1-2 of them are found to have tax problems whenever a new Cabinet is being chosen? Who on earth are these politicians hiring to do their taxes anyway, Benny over at We Do Ur Taxes Gud? Perhaps my assumption that the politicians have the funds and smarts to pay someone competent to do their taxes is misguided. My question is this: If the US tax code is sufficiently complicated that the people who HELP WRITE IT can't figure out how it works, how on earth do they expect the rest of us to figure it out? Is this perhaps a sign that we need 1) to look more closely at the tax records of all the politicians and allow the IRS to claim the money it's owed and 2) a simpler tax code?

It really bothers me that politicians make "mistakes" with their taxes with this frequency. I wonder if the rate of accidental errors in filing among politicians is anything like the rate of errors among the general population. I'd bet my coffee money for the week that it's higher. I don't even buy the argument that federal taxes for politicians are more complicated than those for us mere mortals. I'm sure there are plenty of other citizens with equally complicated tax returns. That's why we hire tax professionals to help us. I'd like to think that politicians get audited whenever there's a suspicious tax return, but the skeptic in me suspects that is probably not the case. I don't know who would be the worse enemy, an aggravated IRS auditor or an aggravated Congress critter/Cabinet member.

Shaking Things Up
I hit the gym this morning. It felt really good to put in some treadmill time and I didn't do as badly as I expected to do with my recent layoff either! Of course at the moment I'm rather tired, but that may have as much to do with spending the day staring at a spreadsheet as it did with my workout. I'm also putting increased emphasis on eating plenty of veggies and fruits each day. It's time to revisit my monthly budget too, so I'm going to track all my expenditures for the next few months. With all these changes, by May or June, I probably won't know who the heck I am any more!! It sounds counterintuitive, but it's always easier for me to make big, dramatic changes rather than small, slow changes. I lose interest in the slow changes, especially if I can't see some progress with them. It's the progress that keeps me going.