Sunday, December 24, 2006

These scarves are too heavy to juggle

I've been a knitting fool lately. Been making some scarves as presents this year. I really like the wavy one on the left. I may have to make one of those for myself. I got the pattern for that one from an online magazine called Knitty. Lots of interesting patterns there. They're out of Toronto, somewhere on Queen Street. I probably walked right past them last time I was up that way.

I'm blogging from my sister's house. I'm here until a few days after Christmas, then it's back home for a week or so. I'm not going back to work until the 8th of January. I figure I'll be fairly stir-crazy by then and ready to go back.

Merry Christmas from Amish country!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Do-it-yourself snow

The high temperature for today is supposed to be 57°F. That's just wrong. It should be snowing.

So I've decided to make some snow of my own at Popular Front's snowdays site. And then a few moments later I made some more. It's oddly addictive.

Anyone wanna join me? If you do and you want to share your snowflake with the other three people who read this blog, you could post the link for it in my comments box.--the site gives you the opportunity to send yourself (or anyone else) a link to your work.

Monday, December 11, 2006

If you wanna sing out, sing out...

Last evening one of my neighbors was out walking his dog and singing:

"I'm 'Enery the Eighth I yam,
'Enery the Eighth I yam I yam.
I got married to the widow next door.
She's been married seven times before
And ev'ry one was an 'Enery ('Enery!),
She wouldn't 'ave a Willy or a Sam (no sir!).
I'm 'er eighth old man named 'Enery,
'Enery the Eigth I yam!"

I couldn't stop myself. I flung open the door and shouted:

"Second verse, same as the first!"

And slammed it shut really quick so he couldn't identify the shouter.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Got a chicken where?

I wasn't able to go to dance class last week, as I was on a bus heading back from Thanksgiving with my parents for most of Sunday evening. I'd told my teacher that I wouldn't be there, and (little teacher's pet wannabe that I am) asked for another rhythm or two to practice on my zills. She'd already given us five different ways to do triplets, and a rhythm that she called "3-5-1-3" because, well, it's that many beats with pauses in between: 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4-5,1,1-2-3. So anyway, this time she gave me 3-3-7, and 3-7-3. Since you get 8 beats when you count from one to seven out loud (go on, try it), they've put this rhythm to words. Instead of 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 it's: "Gotta dance, gotta dance, got a chicken in my pants."


And of course, 3-7-3 is, "Gotta dance, got a chicken in my pants, gotta dance."

Best of all was when she was telling me, she couldn't help doing a little wiggle and shoulder shimmy when she got to "got a chicken in my pants." To which I replied, "well, thank you for the blog post."

I was practicing the zills earlier today, and when I stopped I heard a noise behind me that I quickly identified as the cat, snoring. My first thought? "Oh, God, I've deafened her!" To test this, I went into the kitchen and said very quietly, "Would anyone like a cat treat?" I turned around and she was at the door of the pantry, watching me expectantly. So apparently she's just used to the noise and has learned to tune it out.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What's next, locusts?

The weather forecast for today has predicted just about everything except a rain of poisonous toads. It's supposed to start out with a high of 62° (Fahrenheit), then about 1 o'clock we're supposed to start with rain and high winds -- there's a flash-flood warning until 10 pm, I think -- and then we're supposed to get a little bit of snow. Is Mama Nature a smidge angry?

The rain and wind have started right on schedule, and I just heard a siren in the distance. It sounded like a fire engine. The lights flickered slightly a little while ago, which makes me wonder if a power line is down.

Vacation was nice & relaxing, by the way. Nothing earth-shaking happened, though I did take a few pictures at the kitchen table with the laptop. I'll post them soon.

Now comes the part of the year I dread: Christmas shopping. It's very hard to get any information out of my male relatives about what they'd like for Christmas. Some year I'm going to take a pottery class, make bizarre lumpish objects (that's all I can do anyway. Ever made a pinchpot with corners? By accident? I have. I still don't know how that happened), call them I-don't-knows and give them as presents. Then the next year when I ask what they want and they tell me, "I don't know." I can say, "No, I gave you that last year."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A "stealth" vacation

I've been a full-time employee of this university for fourteen years (and six days. My anniversary was last Sunday), and I have never gotten used to how cool the concept of a paid vacation is. You tell your boss, "Hey, I'm not coming in at all next week. Not only do I expect to have a job here when I come back, I want you to pay me for the time I'm gone." And (s)he says, "Okay. See you in a week."

This is a "stealth" vacation. I haven't told any of my family or friends about it. I am hugging the week to me and whispering, "Mine. All mine." I don't really have much planned, just some Christmas shopping. I'll also try to finish the Christmas stocking I'm embroidering for my brother-in-law. Other than a trip to my parents' house Thanksgiving weekend and dance class tomorrow, I have no obligations this week.

I quit the choir. I know that in last post I said it was fun. And it was fun, when my voice would behave. I've had a series of colds and bouts with allergies this autumn (more so than usual) and they've left me with a now-you-hear-it-now-you-don't kind of singing voice. One of the pieces we were doing is the Hallelujah Chorus. They need first sopranos who can consistently hit the high A's. Sometimes I could, and sometimes all that came out of my mouth was "squeak." Frustrating, and not a help to the rest of the choir.

Also, my friend is feeling a bit of pressure regarding her dissertation. If she doesn't get it finished by the end of this term, she'll have to pay for another semester's tuition. She's running short of funds and getting a bit frantic, so she really doesn't have the time for this choir that she did last year. The whole time she's there, I think she's making mental lists of What She Should Be Doing. The relief in her reply to my "I'm quitting" email was palpable. I think she was trying to find a graceful exit. I'm happy to oblige.

I'll probably post later this week, if anything remotely interesting happens. Maybe I'll take a laptop-camera shot of my parents' place at Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In the basement of Irving's

Lately, I've been calling Sunday "song-and-dance day." Practice for the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas choir started up about a month ago, Sundays 2 to 4. Then I have dance class in the evening.

I joined the choir last year with a friend of mine. It was her idea. She wanted to do something that had nothing to do with writing her dissertation, and asked me if I wanted to come along. This choir is a volunteer, unpaid, single-purpose choir. We practice for 2 months' worth of Sundays, perform twice during Bellefonte's Christmas celebration in early December, and then disband for the year. It's a lot of fun. One of the few opportunities I get to sing that isn't in the shower or along with the radio, since I don't belong to a church and therefore can't join the choir. I made the mistake of saying that a fellow choir-member last year, and she tried to get me involved in her church. I finally had to tell her gently but firmly that I didn't miss being in a choir quite that much.

I should be there right now, but my friend's mother needed to be driven upstate somewhere. I have no other way to get there -- buses don't run to Bellefonte on Sunday. Instead, I've dragged my laptop downtown to Irving's, a sandwich shop/café with free wifi. Bought myself lunch, and now I'm blogging in their basement.

I've moved up to Belly Dance II, by the way. First class was last week, and it blew my mind. We've thrown zills into the mix, as well as doing things faster and in odd rhythms. Remember the whole steps-on-the-down ("that butt-clench thing") I went on about last March? Well, now we're doing something called a three-quarter shimmy. Instead of 1 squeeze each step, it's squeeze-left-squeeze-right-squeeze-left each step. Yeah. That's gonna take a bit of practice.

And on top of this, we add zills. Now I know why I've been holding my fingers like I'm holding a coin between thumb and middle finger. That's where the finger cymbals go! I bought a pair and was given some rhythms to practice. Here's what a zill looks like:

The safety pin is there at the suggestion of my teacher. When I bought them, I got 4 zills and long piece of elastic. You cut the elastic into 4 pieces, thread a piece through each zill, and then fit it to your finger. After a few weeks with them, once I'm sure of the fit (tight enough to keep them from falling off my fingers, yet loose enough to keep my fingers from turning purple. It's a delicate balance), I'm supposed to sew the elastic at the pin mark and trim the ends.

They make a nice, bright, loud "dinnggggg!" The cat hates them. She doesn't run from me when I practice though. She just sit there and stares at me, wide-eyed, ears back flat, wondering what this is in aid of. The way she tells me she's had enough? She starts to sharpen her claws on my rocking chair. That backfired on her, because the last time she did that I chased her away, hissing and clanging the bells.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm not staring at you, I'm just reading your T-shirt.

I've been collecting sayings from T-shirts lately. Here are my favorites:

"Subtle..." -- on the front. Continued on the back: " a brick in the small of my back."

"Respect my peeps." -- The "peeps" in question were three little cartoon drawings of those yellow marshmallow chicks that get sold around Easter time here in the US. I don't know why I'm surprised at this, but they have their own website. These peeps were drawn with little baseball caps on backwards, wearing jewelry.

"Blondes really are more fun." -- worn by a very stern-looking brunette.

"Stop plate tectonics!" -- this one belongs to a friend of mine, and I laugh every time I see it. But then, I'm a little nerdy that way.

I don't tend to wear things with text on them, mainly because I don't hold the same opinion or thought long enough to want it emblazoned across my chest all day. Though if I did, I think it would be the sentence I used for the title of this post. Either that, or something I said to one of our newer part-time employees last week: "I'm not nearly as enthusiastic as I appear." That would work for all moods -- chirpy to grumpy to apathetic.

What would yours say?

Monday, November 06, 2006

I think my 15 minutes just started...

A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers called me from the reference desk and asked if she could borrow the back of my head. The fellow who takes the pictures for our public relations department was doing a photo shoot of our library, and he needed someone to sit and pretend to read a paper. So I came downstairs and held the New York Times in front of me for a little bit, did the same thing with USA Today, was thanked, went upstairs, and forgot about the whole thing.

Until this morning, that is, when I passed a framed poster of myself in the exhibit area on the library's first floor. This shoot (I just found out today) was for a display about my department, what we have to offer, what researchers can do with our resources, etc., etc. The area where I'm sitting is a place with comfy seats and three plasma screen TVs. The TVs run news feeds all the time. The one in the center is news non-English language news (with the sound on), and the two outer ones are US domestic news. These two have the sound turned off and closed-captioning running. We've had complaints from people who want to hear the English-language news, so recently we installed little radio transmitters. Anyone with a walkman or an MP3-player/radio can tune in and listen. We've also ordered radio headsets that people can borrow from the desk, for those folks who don't have either of those things.

This exhibit area is part of the normal route I take while crossing back and forth between my office (which is on the second floor of one end of the building) and the reference desk where I work (on the ground floor of the other end of the building). I get to pass by the back of my head a few times a day every day between now and the end of January. It's an odd feeling. It's also very hard not to look up at myself as I walk by.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blogging remotely

For a number of reasons, the main one being that my desktop machine is on its last legs, I bought myself a laptop last week. It has a hard drive twice the size of the old machine, a wireless card, a 17-inch monitor (the main selling-point, really. Yes, it's heavier than most others, but I have all sorts of room on the screen! I consider that a fair trade), and this nifty little camera above the screen. I can use it to take pictures of myself, but I can also flip it round and take pictures like the one to the left.

This is the room I'm blogging from at the moment. It's my favorite place in the library. Before the renovation (back in the late nineties), it was the Maps library and was just jammed full of map cases, with a section in the back that had tables similar to these. No lamps, though. Then the football coach donated a huge chunk of money to the renovation project, so they turned this room into an old-timey looking reading room and named it after his family. Those brass and green glass lamps house electrical outlets and laptop ports in their bases. The ports were used much more frequently before they installed wifi in the whole building, but it's still a pretty neat idea.

You can't see it very well (the camera only has 1.3 megapixels to it, and was definitely made to take very close-range pictures), but the trim near the ceiling is a series patterns in plaster-- the largest one has been painted red and gold. Back when this was the Maps room, all of those fantastic little details were all painted the same color as the wall. I was so happy to see this room finally get treated the way it deserves. It's in the oldest part of the building, and one of the few places that hasn't been hacked apart or partitioned off into smaller, pokier rooms.

Well, that's about it for now. I just wanted to try out my camera and my wireless card. I suppose I should pack everything up and go get myself some supper before it gets much later.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I hope this isn't a monthly occurrence

"So," I ask, stretching my arms out and turning from side to side. "Do I look like I got dressed in the dark?"

My officemate barely looks at me before responding, bless her. "No. Why?"

"'Cause I did."

"Power's out again?"

"Most of it."

Yeah, that's right. Most of it. At ten o'clock last night my apartment was plunged into darkness. I could see that the answering machine was still on, though (it's in the back corner of the kitchen) and I could hear the refrigerator running. This led me to assume that a breaker tripped, even though I hadn't heard it go off. After flicking various switches in the breaker box a few times, I realized that wasn't it. I poked my head out the front door and saw some of my neighbors wandering around asking each other whether they were having power problems. Some people were completely out. Some people had a few things that wouldn't work, and some people had situations like mine. I'm guessing the people I didn't see weren't affected at all.

I tried calling the complex's office on my cell phone. I got no answer, not even the answering machine, which lead me to believe the office was affected too. The manager has emergency numbers posted on the office door, so I decided to head on up there and see if I could get hold of someone at one of them. I didn't make it very far, though, before another neighbor told me he'd talked to our manager (who is also fellow tenant, apparently. His cable went out and about two seconds later the phone started ringing off the hook--people from all over the complex calling with problems), who was now on the phone with the electric company to see what was up. So I went home.

My heater uses natural gas but the fan is run on electricity, so I had no heat last night. I grabbed every blanket I could find and huddled up with Delilah (who, by the way, was as happy as a pig in poo and spent the whole night purring loudly in my face. She loves it when weird stuff happens). I attached the alarm clock to the one working outlet so that I could at least get to work on time.

No coffee this morning, and a cold sink-bath by candlelight. Yuck.

Around 7 this morning, some fella in a hardhat went door-to-door to explain the situation to us. One of the lines from the transformer was out, so anything attached to that line was out too. They would be digging up our driveway and parking lot again, hoped to have everything restored by noon today.

Admittedly, electricity looks a lot like magic to me, but I have what I think is a logical question: why would you attach parts of an apartment's wiring to different lines? There doesn't seem to be much reason behind the way it was done. It's not like everyone's lights were out, but the refrigerators were all fine. In some cases it was just the reverse. Is that standard practice, or am I right in suspecting that my complex was put together by the Keystone Kops of the construction industry?

Everything should be fine now. I suppose I'll find out when I go home.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Point of consumer-relations etiquette: Unless you are absolutely certain the customer with whom you are conversing is expecting a child, under no circumstances should you ask her when she's due.

Harrumph. Not going there for coffee again anytime soon.

I've spent the whole day asking people at work if I look pregnant. Consensus is that my sweater is rather baggy, the sort of thing a newly pregnant woman might wear. It's also the sort of thing a plump woman might wear if she were not inclined to dress herself in low-cut jeans and high-cut shirts--the sort that make the wearer look like a tube of Pillsbury's biscuit dough that just exploded.

Ah, well. Better to be called pregnant than fat. I guess. Though you'd think the fact that I was buying coffee would be a hint, wouldn't you? Most pregnant women I've ever come across cut out caffeine right away.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Missed opportunity

Blast, blast, blast.

Sunday evening at about 6pm a gorgeous rainbow appeared. It's the only full arch I have ever seen, and very, very bright. I was on the bus for most of it, headed into town for dance class. When I finally got off the bus and started walking, it turned into a double rainbow -- the second about 10 ft (I guess) outside of the first, mirroring it very faintly. As I stood there on the sidewalk, gaping, a flock of migrating Canadian geese flew (in V-formation) right between the two rainbows. It would have been a perfect shot. The next one I would have taken? All the people holding their camera phones skywards, a la Hayata in Ultraman.

Guess where my camera was. Home. I'd decided my bag was too heavy and had a lot of extraneous junk in it. So I pulled out everything I thought I wouldn't be needing that evening.


At least there are some other people from my neck of the woods on Flick'r. I did a search and found some nice shots. Here's one of the double rainbow, and here's one showing how bright the interior bow was.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Two young women (late teens, early twenties) were alone on a large expanse of lawn on campus yesterday, taking turns falling backwards into each other's arms. I was passing at some distance, and didn't like to interrupt, but I really want to know what that was about. I recognize it as a trust exercise--my Mom used to work in a drug rehab center for teens, and I remember her describing this to me. Were these ladies Psych students? Participants in the same group therapy session? Preparing team-building exercises? Was this the result of a conversation on trust? Were they just goofing around? No idea.

Interesting to watch, though.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Fried modem

I was checking my email a little before 7 am yesterday when the power went out. I found out later that most of the people on my street lost power. The first indication I had that it wasn't just my apartment that had a problem (well, second. The first was that I didn't hear the breaker box click) was when my upstairs neighbor started scurrying around. Lighting candles, I suppose. That's what I was doing, anyway.

Candlelight is very pretty and romantic and all that, but it sure is difficult to get dressed by. The cat (very intelligently I thought) decided that the safest place to be was in her little bed, well out of the way of the frantic human fumbling around in the semidark.

According to my neighbors, the power was out until around noon. It was on when I got home at six. There were workmen digging in the front yard, though, so I figured it hadn't been truly fixed yet. They're still out there today, doing who knows what. Whatever they were doing yesterday has resulted in a very large hole, a big pile of dirt, and very thick cable with an extremely frayed and frazzled end to it. I wonder if one of the groundhogs I've been seeing all summer mistook that cable for a chew toy.

The upshot of all this for me personally is internet connection problems. Apparently there was a power surge right before eveything went *poof* that was too much for my power strip, and my modem has died.

I'm trying to decide whether to just get a new modem or to replace the whole CPU. It's an older machine. The service plan I bought for it has most definitely expired. It's probably time to get a new one. And the power goes out often enough (symptom of a town that's growing too fast and an electric company that needs to update their grid) that it's probably one surge away from following the modem into the Great Beyond.

I've been shopping around online (in a computer lab on campus, in case anyone is wondering) and I looked briefly (very briefly) at laptops. They want over $1000 for most of those. Oy. No thanks. Portability isn't that high on my list of priorities. Actually, there isn't really much on my list of priorities. Don't care much for all the bells and whistles. Whatever comes standard suits my purpose. I don't need tons of storage, either, which frustrates store employees.

Most of the machines on the site where I was looking have at least 100 gigs of storage. Mine has 60, and I thought that was a lot when I bought it. I've only used about half. When I was buying this machine, the fellow at the store tried to talk me into getting one with 80 gigs. He couldn't believe I'd be happy with "just 60."

"Look," I said, "the machine I have now has .6 gigs. Asking me whether I want a 60 or 80 gig hard drive is like asking someone living in an efficiency apartment whether they want a 60 room mansion or an 80 room one. It isn't going to matter, because everything they own is going to fit in the foyer."

I expect a similar conversation regarding the 100 or 120 gig hard drive now, if I decide to buy a new machine.

I'm going shopping a little later today. Not buying anything, of that I am sure. There's no way I'd be able to wrestle a purchase onto and off of a bus all by myself. I'm going to have to ask a friend with a car to help me with transport, when (if) I decide to buy something.

I wonder how difficult it is to replace a modem myself? I wonder how much the people at Circuit City would charge to do it for me? Something to ask while I'm there.

Monday, September 18, 2006

BookCrossing's latest acquisition

Heading out for an evening in town, first to dinner then to dance class, I grab a book I bought years ago and have been meaning to read: God-Shaped Hole. I start into it as I'm waiting for the bus. About twenty pages in, I'm getting a bad feeling. By the time I get to town, I'm sure that I'm not going to like this book.

It's a first-person story. I don't like the main character. That isn't necessarily the end of the world. Have you ever read a first-person narrative where the character sets him/herself up as the protagonist, but the author gives you some sort of signal not to believe what you're being told? A turn of phrase, a skewed point of view, a fact dropped into the story that the narrator doesn't realize the significance of--it's a literary throat-clearing, a broad wink. I keep waiting for that signal. I'm not getting it. Oh, dear Lord. The author likes this woman. I'm expected to like her as well, and by extension I'm supposed to care about this idiot she's just met and fallen in love with.

I do not want to have dinner with these people. I have no other book with me, and the public library closes at 5 on Sunday. Ten minutes ago.

Thank goodness for Webster's, our local second-hand book store! For two dollars and tax, I buy an Agatha Christie murder mystery I've never heard of before (Towards Zero) and use it to replace the bunch of pretentious, angst-ridden, pseudo-intellectual twerps I was stuck with.

Now I'm starting to feel bad. Maybe I didn't give these people enough of a chance. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for this book. Maybe I'll pick it up again in a few weeks.

Maybe I'll enter it in BookCrossing and leave the book out somewhere in the hope that whoever stumbles upon it will appreciate it in ways that obviously I cannot.

Monday, September 04, 2006

In Pennsylvania Dutch country this weekend

I'm visiting my sister at the moment. This is the first time I've been to their new house. They live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Mennonites and Amish folk everywhere. Sunday in particular the buggies and bicycles on the road drastically outnumbered the cars.

Headed back home by bus this afternoon. Classes start tomorrow, which means town is going to be busy and full. I'm glad the students are back. I missed them. It's a little too quiet without them. Sure, I say that now. Give me two months, I'll be ready for them to leave and give us some peace.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Grange Fair

Originally uploaded by JugglingScarves.
Went to Grange Fair this weekend. This fair is (I'm told) unique in the country. It's the only one left where people camp on the fairgrounds all week. A tent city pops up the day before the fair starts, and stays up into the Thursday of the following week.

Once you have been assigned a plot at the Grange Fair, it belongs to your family until someone decides to give it back. They get passed down in wills, they become a bone of contention in divorce settlements...this camping-at-the-fair thing is a great big deal. If you're locally born, that is. Outsiders (like me) just don't get the appeal. But I digress.

There's a waiting list a mile long for people who want plots. I don't think these plots can be sold, but they can be loaned out to people for one year at a time. Apparently, if you leave the tent completely unoccupied for one fair, your plot is forfeited and given to someone else. I don't think this happens often.

I spent the whole day there this past Saturday. I went with friends who have one of these tents. I can't imagine staying there for a whole week, unless I had animals to tend. That's where the tradition originated, back when long-distance transportation took a lot longer than it does now. Farmers had to stay on-site, because it wasn't feasible to ride back and forth from home to fairgrounds. It was also quite a social occasion. Again, because of transportation difficulties, it was sometimes the only week out of the year that families and friends living on opposite ends of the county got to see each other. A lot of family reunions are still held during Grange Fair.

It's not just about animals, produce, and handicrafts, either. There's a midway full of games, rides, and food stalls. There are performances in the grandstand and on the midway all week --concerts, tractor pulls, dance exhibitions, you name it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bringing the war a little too close to home

My aunt sent out an email on Friday to tell us all that my cousin, currently stationed at an air force base in Germany, is being deployed to Baghdad in November. The airman that was supposed to go got into a fist fight a few days ago. The disciplinary action that followed cost him a stripe on his rank, and now the only person with both the rank and the experience to suit their needs is my cousin.

He's coming back to the U.S. next week for training somewhere in Mississippi. His wife and two children (a three year old daughter and a newborn son) are going to live with my aunt and uncle in Virginia while he's away. It's only supposed to be a six-month deployment, but he was told that it could be extended to eight or nine months.

I was afraid something like this would happen. When he joined the air force, my cousin was trained to work with the missiles. He was stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming and looked to be there for quite a while. Ironic, isn't it, that the safest place to be right now is tending nuclear weapons? He got restless, though. Because the job is so specialized there isn't much room for advancement. So he got retrained a few years ago and now he's in the post office for the AFB at (I think) Bitburg. My aunt says that's what he'd be doing in Iraq, handling the mail. Somehow I think it's going to be more difficult than that.

In my head, I still see the little boy I used to babysit. It's hard to think of him in a war zone.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nothing to report, really

I've been surfing around, checking in with all the blogs I read, and I'm seeing there's as little activity elsewhere as there is right here. I think we're all doing the same thing: playing in the sunshine.

Will be back later when I've done something even remotely blogworthy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Last weekend and this weekend

This is Chewie. I'm not sure I've spelled his name right. He's a chocolate Labrador. He was one of about 20 dogs that came to Mutts Gone Mad last Saturday, which is about twice what we had last year.

I was running the Bobbing for Hot Dogs event for most of the day, and aiming my camera at everywhere else the rest of the time. Chewie was not interested in hot dogs at all. He flung himself into the wading pool and spun around a few times while biting at the water. Then he lay down, threw his head back, and allowed me to take this picture. It was one of the few times he was still all afternoon.

Everyone involved had a lot of fun, and we raised $42 for the local animal welfare agency. Not very much, but more than last year. They were pleased with it, though (every little bit helps), and the beagle rescue group was thrilled to get what they consider a "good" adoption application for one of their animals.

This is going to be a short post. I'm heading to my parents' house for a long weekend in about half an hour, and I'm not done packing yet. It's been a nice week off so far. I did some drawing on Sunday and Monday, thanks to a suggestion made by Anna of Self-Winding. I did a lot of reading, too, most of it indoors because it has been stinkin' hot here all week.

I think I'm going to bring my sketch pad with me to my folks' house. The first drawing I did pleased me quite a bit, but I'm not sure it wasn't a fluke. I seem to be able to do one good one, then a bunch that are very unsatisfying. Is that normal? I only ask because I don't draw much, and it bothers me when an ability seems to come and go of its own free will.

Time to go. Packing to do, taxi to call. Bye y'all!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Mutts Gone Mad & my birthweek

Howdy! My birthday is next Friday, and I've decided to take all of next week as vacation. I don't know quite what I'm going to do with myself. Well, that's a lie. I do know of two things I'll be doing. I'm visiting the parents towards the end of the week for a combination birthday/anniversary celebration. I was a 1-day early second anniversary present. And tomorrow I'm going to be in Reynolds Park in Bellefonte from 11 to 2 with my fellow Loons, hosting a fun fair for dogs.

We call it "Mutts Gone Mad," and this will be the second one we've done. Last year's was pretty well-attended, considering the very little press we got. We're hoping tomorrow's crowd is at least as large and that they have just as much fun as least year's group. There will be contests of all sorts: a rally course, an agility course, a best-dressed contest, and (new this year) doggie limbo. I have no idea how the last one works. I guess I'll know more tomorrow. There are also no-pressure sort of games to play, like an IQ test, and bobbing for hot dogs. This game involves throwing a frankfurter into a full wading pool, and then letting the dog go get it. It's fun to see how the different breeds react. Last year, the retrievers were more interested in splashing around in the water than what was in it. There was a mastiff who tried to do a Moses and push the water aside with her paws, because she didn't want to get her face wet.

The whole event is free. The only thing we sell is food (hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks) but we don't keep the proceeds. Those go to the local animal welfare organizations, some of whom will have representatives there. Beagle Rescue is even bringing a dog who's available for adoption.

This year we had a reporter from Lock Haven contact the Chief Loon, wanting to do a piece on MGM (as we've started to call it). Chief didn't get the email until after the deadline had passed, but this reporter is still interested in us, and now wants to write about the Loons in general. Wow. I wonder how she heard about us. I didn't think we were that visible, really.

Well, that's it for now. Desk is organized so people have somewhere to drop problems in my absence (I'm writing this from work). Time to get the heck outta here. I'll probably post some pictures here and/or on Flick'r when I come in for a landing. Tootles!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Local arts festivals

Originally uploaded by JugglingScarves.
There were a couple of arts & crafts festivals held in towns nearby, about a week ago. This is a yearly event, held around the middle of July. The two festivals are run by different organizations, but are scheduled so that they coincide. The one in State College was started by local artists forty years ago and it wasn't very long before it became too big for its britches. The organizers introduced some sort of jury process for artist selection, and the local talent started getting excluded in favor of out-of-town (usually out-of-state) artists with more expensive wares to sell.

In reaction, about ten or fifteen years ago the local artists started another festival in Boalsburg, the next town over. The first few years it was strictly for Pennsylvania artists. It's widened a bit in scope since then. Actually, this last time through I noticed the same artists had booths at both festivals. I wonder how long it will be before the local artists get pushed out of the Boalsburg one and have to start up a third festival in Bellefonte, Port Matilda, or Lemont.

My belly dance teacher has been trying for years to get some stage time at either festival. She's been repeatedly turned down. This year, though, she had an edge: one of her Belly Dance 2 students is married to a planner on the Boalsburg festival's committee. She got an hour of performance time. She contacted the other belly dance troupe in the area and offered them half of it, and from 3:30 to 4:30 the Saturday before last, the patrons of the People's Choice Festival got to see all sorts of belly dancing. This picture is of part of a sword dance. My teacher is one of the two women balancing swords on their heads, but unfortunately you can't see very much of her. The smiling woman on the right is my new teacher, who took over teaching the cabaret-style classes now that Barb is leaving.

I didn't take any more pictures than this one. I wasn't using a flash (didn't want to distract) and the picture came out very dark. Through the miracle of technology, though, I've managed to brighten it up considerably. If I'd known about the software before today, I would have shot lots more.

I bought my Mom's birthday present at the State College festival. This is tradition. Her birthday usually falls right after (or somewhere in the middle) of the festival. This year, though, the 4th of July being on a Tuesday pushed both festivals back a week. I can't say just yet what I bought her -- I haven't given it to her yet, and she sometimes reads this blog. I'll post a picture of it after I give it to her. I'm pretty sure she'll like it.

I also bought something for myself, which I don't usually do. There was a paper-maker and bookbinder there, selling gorgeous leather-bound books, full of thick, creamy, blank pages. The pages are hand-sewn into the binding. You just don't see that anymore. The one I bought is bound in red leather. So soft. So lovely. So intimidating to think about writing or drawing in it. But draw in it I will, just as soon as I limber up the old sketching muscle.

Now I know I saw my art supplies somewhere when I was cleaning...where did I stash them?

I really need to get out more

I'm working on a project involving a set of microfilm called the Underground Newspaper Collection. I'm not going to get into how crazy it's driving me. Let's just say that my coworkers tiptoe past me and pretend not to hear to the muttering, sobbing, and cursing that leaks out over the soft walls of my cubicle.

I just want to mention this, because it just struck me today: of all the newspapers that were not trying for commercial success (in other words, the ones published by someone with a Cause, as opposed to the ones published with the intent of being a local newspaper), I've found that the anarchists were the best at being consistent. Their publications generally had numbers that went in sequential order (a rarity, trust me) and those numbers were (usually) printed somewhere on each issue, along with a date (equally as rare) . They also managed to maintain the frequency of publication, instead of publishing as a monthly for 3 issues and then letting six months go by before publishing another one. Wouldn't you think that as anarchists they'd be less concerned with organization and structure than their fellow alternative presses? Maybe to the point of being random on purpose?

I thought that was pretty funny. But then, I amuse easily.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Pictures from the Box

Whaddya think of the new look? I was getting a little tired of all the pink, myself. One of these days (not anytime soon) I may try to figure out how to design blog and make my own template. Don't be holding your breath, now. That's a vague whim. Until then, I think I can live with the lighthouse.

I visited my parents this past weekend. We spent a lot of time on the porch watching nature's floor show. There is a family of woodpeckers that walks up and down the trees calling to each other while they hammer away at tree trunks, and a gorgeous, too-fast-for-my-camera scarlet tanger (bright red with black wings) that visits once in a while. There are some juncos living in a nest under the porch (the porch is actually very high off the ground, so I'm not surprised there are birds using the underside of it), and the babies are just learning how to fly.

The real attraction though is a bunch of flying squirrels living in the eaves of the red tin roof. Mom's named them The Flying Wollendas. They leave the nest about dusk, go to the very edge of the roof and one by one they fling themselves out into the air, swooping down to land on the tree nearest the house. Then they climb to the top of that tree and fling themselves at the next one. They're about the size of chipmunks. I assumed flying squirrels were bigger, for some reason. Mom and Dad say that when it's finally time to weatherproof the house, they're going to have to seal off the roof in the evening, after the squirrels have left for the night. They don't want to hurt them, just make them move their nest to another location.

I stayed through to Monday, because it was Mom's birthday. I took her out to lunch at a 50's-style diner called Fezz's, after a morning spent going through this h-u-g-e box of photographs. She was looking for baby pictures for a family picnic my aunt is having this weekend. She wants everyone to send her baby pictures and she's going to make some sort of poster with them. I'm not going to this shin-dig. Not only is it farther away than I can manage without a longish bus trip (she lives in New Jersey), I already had other plans. And if I hadn't had any I'd have made some. My father's side of the family is large, loud, and rather...contentious? I guess that's the word. Last time we all got together (which was for my Grandma's funeral a little over a year ago), my dad and one of his brothers argued for at least 1/2 an hour about whether sugar or baking soda should be used to cut the acid in tomato sauce. I mean, really. They both work. Let's move on, okay?

So anyway as we were sorting through the pictures, I found a bunch I wanted copies of. I took twelve of them with me, but there were dozens and dozens more that I wanted. When I go back up next month, I'm going to spend a bit more time digging around in that box. There are some great ones in there. I scanned the twelve I brought back with me, and have uploaded all but three into Flickr. I'll get the other three done tonight. My connection is dial-up, so it takes a while to do.

Here's the one I used to make the new picture for my profile. It's me, at about 1 1/2.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sounds of the season


I sit bolt upright in bed. Was that a gunshot? I jam my glasses onto my face and look at the clock: 2:45 AM. That means it's really 2:18. The police will want to know when I heard the shot. I wonder if I'll have to explain why the alarm clock is set 27 minutes ahead.

I don't remember getting out of bed, but now I'm in the front room, peeking through the slats of the window blind. Can't see a thing. As I'm deciding whether to call the police or not, I hear it again. Different this time:

Zzzzzt! Pa-pow!

Oh, for pity's sake. It's been the fourth of July barely two hours, and someone's already setting off firecrackers. He (I don't know why I'm so sure it's a "he") probably bought them from that huge tent in the Wal-mart parking lot tonight, stopped there after work. Then, since tomorrow's a holiday, he went out drinking with his buddies. Bars close around two, so he probably just got home. He's not sleepy yet. A little bit bored, in fact. And then he sees his fireworks....

Screeeeeeee! Pop.

I shuffle back to bed, climb in, put a pillow over my head. Now that I know what the noise is, I can probably sleep through it. Oddly comforting to know that one's neighbors are just idiots, as opposed to being violent criminals.

As I start to drift off to sleep, I decide I'm going to have to suspend my disbelief a little more when watching TV or a movie. I never believe it when I see a character go from being sound asleep to sitting straight up in bed. Apparently it does happen.


Moron. I hope he gets rained on at every single football game he goes to this Fall.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


Well that's over with, thank goodness. It appears they only notify you of the results if things need to be changed at all. All I got on my door was a little note that read, "Your apartment has been inspected," so I guess I passed. I finally got the computer reconnected last night. It's amazing how much time you have for other things when goofing off online isn't an option.

One good thing came out of all of this. I like the way the apartment looks now. I wouldn't be embarrassed to let my Mom in here. It's a bit more organized, and there's a little less clutter overall. I threw out or donated to charity a lot of things that I decided I just didn't want or need any more. And I have enough space in the front room that I practice with the belly dancing DVD I bought a while back without too much furniture-shifting beforehand.

My belly dance instructor is moving away in August. Her husband lost his job, so they're moving to a little town a few hours away from us and starting a business. She says there's no one in that area teaching belly dance, so she's going to try to get some classes started there. Our classes are going to be taken over by her most advanced student--sort of her apprentice. She and my instructor have been taking turns leading class since I started going last March, so it should be a smooth transition. I'm going to miss Barb, though.

Speaking of belly dance, I took a workshop a couple weekends ago, focusing on Turkish Romany-style belly dance--the sort the gypsies dance. It was really interesting. And fun. And tiring. Dance classes are normally about an hour long. This class was one two-hour session, then an hour lunch break, then a second two-hour session. Boy, did I hurt the next day. My body clicked and clacked like a Jacob's Ladder. The music we were dancing to was in 9/8 meter: nine beats to the measure broken down into 4 beats, so you get this slight pause at the end of each measure. Here, try this, you'll see what I mean. Count this out loud and clap on the "1's":

1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2-3...

It sounds like this:

clap, clap, clap, clap,[slight pause], clap, clap, clap, clap [slight pause]

That slight pause is just enough time for a quick hop or kick or hip movement, or any number of things. It takes a little readjustment to make oneself pause at the end of the fourth beat. I wound up rushing the steps a few times until I got it figured out. And then at class the following week, I had trouble readjusting to plain 1-2-3-4 again.

Let's see, what else is going on? The mess at work has been sorted out, kind of. I don't think anyone is particularly happy with the result (I know I'm not), but this is only supposed to be an "interim" solution to our problem. Maybe now we can stop sniping at each other and act like civilized people again. Hope springs eternal.

I'm visiting my parents next weekend, staying through to Monday for my Mom's birthday. No word yet on a diagnosis for her problem. I don't think she's been back to the doctor yet. Maybe it hasn't flared up recently. I'll make sure I ask her about it during the next "finger and toe check," which is what she calls our weekly phone conversations.

It's gorgeous outside. Finally. It's been raining off and on all week. I'm going to go play in the sunshine now. Have a good weekend everyone!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Down to the wire

It's been a while since I posted, I know. Busy with rearranging the apartment and assorted other off-line activities.

First of all, let me say that Mom got the results of her stress test, and there's nothing wrong with her heart. She had to call them to get the results, which they have had since the day after the test. They tried to call (or so the receptionist claimed), but no one was home. My parents don't own an answering machine, and the receptionist said they didn't have my Mom's work number. They do, though. It was on the same form as the home number, if anyone had bothered to look. So we still don't know what's giving her grief, but at least it isn't her heart. She thinks she has a hiatal hernia.

I came home yesterday to another note from the apartment complex office. Inspection is definitely Monday through Wednesday of next week. And now he tells us things that I'm going to have to scurry around making sure of this weekend: no power strips or extension cords are to be in evidence. This means my computer's getting unplugged. I'm also pretty sure that the space I have between my table and book case is a little too narrow to be considered a "clear path," so it's time to move furniture. Again. I wish they'd said something sooner.

To add insult to injury, the inspections are random. They might not even pick my place to look at, and all this fretting and fussing will have been for naught. The manager said he'd contact us after/if our apartments got inspected. Delilah is going to have to be crated three days next week, unless I hear otherwise. Thank goodness they only do this every 4 to 6 years. Hopefully I'll be out of there the next time inspection comes around.

I probably won't be making an entry until Wednesday night, unless the manager sounds the all-clear before then. Wish me luck.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Today's word

For years now, I have subscribed to a listserv called "A Word a Day." Most weeks, there's a theme to the words that we receive. This week's theme was long words. I mean really, really long words. Like today's:

pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, noun

-o-sis, nyoo-)

A lung disease caused by inhaling fine particles of silica.

[From New Latin, from Greek pneumono- (lung) + Latin ultra- (beyond, extremely) + Greek micro- (small) + -scopic (looking) + Latin silico (like sand) + volcano + Greek konis (dust) + -osis (condition).]

Yowza. It takes longer to say than it does to define.

Hey, guess what! This is my fiftieth post!

Back to (what passes for) normal

The kittens have been collected. Delilah is as inscrutable as ever. She looked around for them (briefly) when I moved her dishes back to the kitchen. Then she dismissed them from her mind and settled down to eat.

The woman who came to get them told me that the other kitten she'd been given was found last Friday in the middle of the road during a rain storm. His name is "Splash." She said he cried all night, and she thinks he's just lonely. I think these two will make good roommates for him. Charlie in particular is very friendly. Dexter probably will just be grateful that Charlie has someone else to jump on for a while.

I've asked for Charlie and Dexter to be adopted together if that's at all possible, and she said they try to honor requests like that. If it's been a few weeks, though, and no one wants two kittens, they will probably get split up--better one of them gets a good home than they both wind up in foster care for eternity.

Now back to reorganizing the apartment. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I hope it's not an oncoming train....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Nothing yet about Mom

Emailed my Mom today at lunchtime. She said they haven't gotten back to her yet about the test results. She thinks that's a good sign. If it were something serious, they'd be all over her to get in there immediately. Right?

Charlie and Dexter

It's been a very eventful weekend for the boys. Yep. Boys. The vet told me that the one I've been calling a "she" isn't one.

So here's a summary: When last we left our heroes, they were headed for the vet's to find out if they'd been exposed to the feline leukemia and /or feline AIDS viruses. They haven't. Yippee! I also found out they're about five weeks old.

Shortly after the vet told me I had two males, I decided to name them, mainly for paperwork reasons. "Kitten 1" and "Kitten 2" just seemed stupid. So the tan one with all the thin stripes is Charlie, and the little one with the big thick black stripes is Dexter. In the attached picture, that's Charlie on the bottom and Dexter on top.

I went home and called the woman from the shelter and left the test results on her voicemail. She got back to me yesterday. She's been given another 5-week-old kitten, and she's keeping that at her house until the shelter has room. She's coming by my place tonight around 7:30 to pick up these two from me. So today is their last day at Chez Vee. Delilah will be so pleased.

I'm going to get all sniffly when they leave, I can tell. Strange how quickly you can get attached to something, even when you know the situation isn't permanent.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mom's test and kitten #3

In all the excitement about furry houseguests, I forgot to mention a call I got from my Mom. She had her stress test on Tuesday. They have to analyze the results yet, so she didn't have much to tell me. They told her there were a couple of odd results, but that women her age get false positives a lot, which is why they did some sort of scan as well. I want to say it was a CAT scan, but that maybe because I have cats on the brain. As soon as they've looked at that scan, they'll call her for another appointment.

She said she looks like she had a wrestling match with an octopus. There are little "sucker" marks all over her from those sticky pads from the ends of the wires (remember the intro for The $6 Million Man?). One of them took off some skin when it was removed. Dad said (and I agree) that you'd think that they'd show just a teensy bit more care instead of just yanking the things off you when they're done.

It wasn't a long conversation, and she was off to call my sister with the same bit of news. I warned her that she'd forgotten to tell Ditter about the stress test to begin with, and she might get a bit of a tongue-lashing. She was surprised. She thought she had told her. Apparently when she talked to my sister, they got off-topic and never wandered back onto it.

In other news, I found out what happened to kitten #3. On my way through the complex yesterday evening, I passed a woman sunning herself outside of her apartment. I thought it was the woman from the pair I spoke to last Thursday, but her hair was up this time, and I didn't remember it being quite so red. Next to her was a cat carrier, just like the new one I bought for my guests. I took a peek into it, and this little striped face peeked back at me.

"I have two kittens in my kitchen that look just like you." I said to the little face.

"Oh!" said the woman. "You found the others?"

Apparently their little one made her foray into the great big world Friday evening, in the middle of a downpour. They heard her crying in the drain pipe (sticks out of the hillside, it's what has made that ditch between the lawn and the woods), and they were sure she'd drown if they didn't get her out of there. It took them the better part of an hour before she'd let them near her, and she hissed and bit at them for a day or so afterwards. She's fine now. Plays with their little Yorkie (Pebbles), who I'll bet she thinks is a large, funny-looking cat. The woman says she's not sure whether they're keeping her or giving her to a friend of theirs who happens to be a vet. She says it gets harder everyday to think of giving the kitten up. I wonder now, which one was it I saw chasing after Mama Cat that day? None of them are white and black tabby. Maybe it was the one I have that is tan with very fine black stripes.

The two I'm tending are now officially on the waiting list for the adoption center. It's purely a space consideration, and kittens get adopted quickly, so the coordinator thinks there will be room for these two in about a week. I'm supposed to ask the vet for a combo test tomorrow (to check for feline leukemia and feline AIDS--I didn't know the latter existed until yesterday) on one of them, and if that comes back OK, then it's all systems go. The center won't take them if they've been exposed to either of those viruses. I'm not going to worry about that unless I have to. She said we only need to test one of them, because the test is expensive, and 99% of the time if one is virus-free then the other one is too. Makes sense. She doesn't want me to get them started on the shots, though. They'll do that at the center.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kitten update

Kittens' Nest Site
Originally uploaded by JugglingScarves.
This is where they used to live. The nest was right in that hole (it's in about the middle of the picture). Compared to that wee space, I'm thinking a cat carrier with a towel, water bottle, makeshift litter pan in the back, and food brought in a few times a day must be a great big step up, comfort-wise. The view isn't as good, though. Nothing to look at but the baseboards of the kitchen cabinets. Also, there's the whole matter of being on the wrong side of a locked door.

Shortly after the last blog entry, I emailed a friend of a friend and asked for advice. She suggested I call that adoption/fostering agency I'd mentioned last time. I assumed (wrongly, thank goodness) that they wouldn't be open on the weekend. Apparently they're open to the public only on weekends. I talked to someone Sunday who promised to forward my information to the person who coordinates fostering and adoption for cats. I gave her as many of the particulars as I had (not sure of age. I think 6 weeks--eyes are open, ears are up, they have teeth, and can eat solid food), told the woman I was planning to take them to the vet sometime this week, and gave her every phone number I have. She had a great suggestion, which I employed immediately.

She suggested I cut off the end of a shoe-box, put it in the back of the carrier, and put some cat box filler in it. She said they'd probably know what to do with it, and this way I wouldn't need to change towels nearly so often. I was a little skeptical about the "they'll know what to do" part. They've never seen a litter box in their lives. Guess what? Shortly after I did that, I heard one of them scratching around in it. Son of a gun! Wish dogs were that easy to potty train. Or people, for that matter.

I've been letting them out every once in a while to run around in the bath tub--treating it sort of like a play pen. While they were in the tub the first time, I tried a water dish again, using a saucer instead of the plastic thing I used last time. It took me dipping my finger in the water and rubbing their mouths with it before they paid any attention to the saucer. Then they drank it dry, twice. That made me nervous. I didn't want them getting dehydrated, but I was pretty sure that if I put a water dish in that carrier with them they'd just knock it over again.

Well, duh! How many hamsters and gerbils did my sister and I have when we were kids? What about a water bottle? I could hook it to the metal grille of the door. And so, kitties back in the carrier after play time, I went out and got one. Works great.

I need to reiterate that I've never done this before. Please remember that what may look like simple common sense has to filter through a bit of worry that I might accidentally harm while trying to help.

I think I've got one boy and one girl. They're both tan and black tabbies. The male's stripes are much thinner than the (I think) female's. I say I think she's a she because she doesn't like me picking her up, so I only got a quick glance. The male is much more outgoing, a risk-taker. He's the one who was on top of the stump hollering for help. He was the first one down the tree, the first one to climb up the gully, and the first one to let me pet him. He talks to me a lot.

She is reserving judgment for now. Sometimes she'll give me a long, measuring look and then mew, and sometimes she gives a little baby hiss. Comes out more like "Hhhh" than an adult cat's hiss. I'm perversely pleased by the hissing. Everytime she does it, I think, "Good for you! Don't trust someone just because they're keeping you alive. They could have ulterior motives."

I tried my vet for an appointment, and even after I explained the situation, the receptionist said the best she could do was June 14th. That's two weeks away! I told her apologetically that I'd check with other vets first to see if I could find anything sooner. A coworker suggested the place she uses--it's a veterinary hospital. It's much closer to me, and there are a bunch of vets associated with it, so there'd be a better chance of an earlier appointment. I did that, and now we're going Friday at 4. Much better than June [expletive] 14th.

One of the things the receptionist at the hospital asked was about names for the kittens. I guess they need it for their files. "I, um, I'm trying not to get too attached. I can't keep them." So for now the boy is "Kitten One" and the girl is "Kitten Two."

Delilah is still acting funny. She's been extremely quiet. She's 3/4 Siamese (mom was full, dad was 1/2), and is usually very, very vocal. Since Saturday she's maybe given me two very quiet meows. Sticks to me like flypaper, though. When she's in my lap, she purrs up a storm. But then, she usually does. Since her first look into the carrier, she hasn't been back into the kitchen. It's like she's deleted it from her mental map of the apartment. I've moved her food and water to the bathroom, near the sink.

She came into that bathroom once when I had the kittens running around in the tub--they're relaxed enough now that they're starting to play, by the way. I think that's a good sign. Anyway, she let me hold her while she watched them for a moment or two. She didn't growl or anything, just took it in. Then she asked to leave. I wish I knew what she's thinking. I hope she's not worried that she's getting replaced.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unexpected houseguests

Unexpected Houseguests 1

There was a feral cat living in the woods behind my building. This past Monday was the last time I saw her, and the first time I knew she was a mommy. I was coming back from the laundry room, and she was on the sidewalk ahead of me. Instead of vanishing into the underbrush the way she always does, she started meowing. Sounded distressed. And then I heard it: teeny little kitten mews in the woods. One of the kittens was out of the nest, looking for her, and she was torn between whether to go put the baby back where it belonged or lure me away from the nest. I saw it, too. It was a minature version of her--white with stripes. I decided to let myself be led away.

A few days later, I heard the kitten again, very loud and insistent. Its voice was joined by another, just as urgent-sounding. Some of my neighbors came out to see what the noise was about, and one of them got right up to where the kittens were. He said there were three of them in a tree trunk. We were conflicted about whether to take them out of the nest or not. I figured Mama Cat was just off hunting somewhere, and would be back soon. We agreed to leave them there, untouched, because if she smelled human scent on them she might not feed them when she came back.

When I came home from work yesterday, I heard nothing from the woods. Today, however, more crying. And now there are only two kittens. That little whitish one is gone. I don't know what happened, and I don't think I want to know. The two remaining ones were so hungry that they came out of the woods to me. I sat on a rock in the gully that separates the woods from the lawn, and watched them climb down the tree trunk, come through the underbrush, and walk right up to me. They'd sniff me and back away, but they never left entirely. I'm pretty sure now that something has happened to the mother cat. Either she tangled with a ground hog (I've seen quite a few of them around this year), or got hit by a car, I don't know. The kittens were hungry enough start chewing dead leaves they found in the gully.

So I went into the apartment and got the cat carrier, put a towel in it, and went back out to the woods. I didn't even need to climb back into the gully -- they scaled the side of it to get to me. They're now in my kitchen. I fed them some dry cat food (it's all I have. They ate it, though), and gave them a little bowl of water. The water may have been a mistake. All they do is step in it.

I need to get them to a vet, to see if they're healthy. I'm pretty sure they have fleas, and goodness know what else. They've been living in the woods, after all. Of course I decided to play savior after my vet's office closed for the day. I doubt very much any of the vets in town have Sunday hours, and Monday is Memorial Day--no one will be open. So it looks like Tuesday, provided I'm not on the reference desk at an inconvenient time.

I have no idea what to do with them after a vet's visit. I can't keep them. My lease only allows for one animal, and that would be Delilah. The local SPCA is a little too quick to destroy animals. Now granted, these are kittens and probably easier to place than an adult cat, but still, I don't want to run the risk of them being destroyed. In reaction to the SPCA's practices, a group has formed that acts as a sort of pet adoption agency/foster center. These animals live in peoples' homes temporarily until someone else adopts them. There's usually a waiting list to get animals into this program.

Delilah's been in the kitchen to see what's making all the noise in the cat carrier (they were crying to be let out a while ago. They seem to have settled down now). I don't know what's going on in her head. She hid for a while, then sat on the bed staring at me for a while, and now she's curled up asleep--nowhere near me. Normally when I'm on the computer, she's right next to me in her bed. I think she's upset with me.

If Mama Cat is alive, I'm sorry for the distress this will cause her. But I've spoken with other people who saw this cat more regularly than I did, and she hasn't been seen in days. I feel justified in taking these little things in. I think they would have starved to death out there.

I just wish I knew what to do now. Maybe the vet will have some ideas. She probably gets things like this all the time.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Inspection imminent

My apartment complex is getting inspected soon. I had a feeling this was going to happen, what with the new CO- and smoke-detectors they put in last February.

I came back from fetching my camera from the UPS depot two weeks ago to find a typed-up letter from the management (we all got one) warning that the maintenance folks would be in and out of apartments for a while, doing pre-inspection inspections, to see what needed fixing before the Code Dude (not his official title) came to look things over.

It's hard to take a person seriously when they write you a letter asking you to make sure your apartment is kept in a "clean and tidy manor." Spell-check strikes again.

So anyhow, that's where I've been for a week and a half, furiously cleaning my apartment. The usual image of my mother standing on her hips looking disgusted has been replaced by one of a faceless bureaucrat with a clipboard--someone who really is an authority on pig sties.

The bathroom looks great, the kitchen pretty good, the living and sleeping areas are a nightmare. I have come to a conclusion: I have too much stuff. Just when I think I've got a handle on things I find more crap. DVDs, CDs, magazines (mostly about embroidery or jewelry-making), yarn, embroidery supplies, jewelry-making supplies, books. Good Lord! The books! They're everywhere! I am officially not allowed to buy one more book until I read everything I have.

I also need to stop hanging onto clothes that are too big for me. I don't ever want them to fit again, so why are they still there? And why oh why do I have so many socks? I probably won't need to do sock-laundry for the next two months. They're all white. All about the same length. Where did they all come from? I thought you were supposed to lose socks in the laundry, not find them. Or maybe this is what happens--at one end of a wormhole is a clothes-dryer. At the other, a closet floor. The socks get pulled through the wormhole and pop out the other side, having lost all color and distinguishing features.

Or maybe every once in a while I go buy socks, thinking for some strange reason that I don't have enough.

I have an entire shelf in my closet devoted to jigsaw puzzles. I haven't put together a puzzle since I got the computer, mainly because the computer sits on the only surface I have that's large enough to accommodate puzzles. Oh wait, I tell a lie. I remember buying a difficult one the week my Grandma was visiting. She was staying at my parents' place, and I went upstate for a visit, puzzle box under my arm. We spent most of our time chatting and putting that thing together. My mother was grateful. She always felt at a loss for how to keep her mother-in-law entertained.

I need that shelf space. I think a coworker of mine is going to be inheriting those puzzles, because she foolishly told me a few weeks ago that she's just recently picked that up as a hobby. I'll make sure I only give her the ones with all the pieces, though. I'm desperate, not cruel. Well, not today.

The cat is trying to figure out what the blue blazes is going on. The first few days, she hid every time I started to head off for work. If you'll remember from the post I did on cleaning back in February, the next step after cleaning is wrestling the cat into the pet carrier, to keep her from getting underfoot of whoever's coming that day. But she's not hiding anymore, because I haven't tried to crate her. I think she's decided that I'm just going crazy, and that I now enjoy spending my spare moments taking apart and slowly putting back together the various set-ups in my teeny little apartment.

Inspection isn't for another month. It was supposed to be this week, but the complex was granted an extension because they had a lot of things to fix. Whew. That gives me more time to get things organized. Although it means once I'm done, I'm not allowed to touch anything until the end of June. Hmmm. We'll have to see how that goes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


I've been hit by a rather aggressive spammer in my comments box. I've received the odd spam comment before now, sighed, shrugged, and deleted it. This particular program, though, sent 12 in 15 minutes. So on goes the word verification.

Monday, May 15, 2006

What, me worry?

Called my Mom recently and during the course of the conversation she mentioned that she's having a stress test soon. She had some sort of painful attack recently that she thinks has to do with a hernia, but the doctor wants to rule out a heart condition. She kinda slid it in there, between talk about the new riding mower they just bought, how the garden is shaping up this year, and what silliness the dog has been up to lately.

She then informed me that she wouldn't have told my sister or me at all, except that we made "such a big deal" about that time she thought she'd had a stroke and never told us until after all the tests came back negative. They still don't know what happened that time, but it's never recurred. I can't have a hangnail without her needing to know about it, but she thinks she might have had a stroke and is surprised when we got mad at her for keeping the information to herself? She didn't want us to worry, I suppose, which means I'm expected to act nonchalant now that she's told me about this test. If I get all upset, see, she'll never tell me anything again.

So I'm going to sit here quietly and churn stomach acid for a while, until I get told that my Mommy's okay.

Watching the tumbleweeds blow by

It's been like a ghost town since Friday of finals week. Graduation was this past weekend, and summer classes started this morning. It's still very, very quiet out there. And so I give you "Stray Bits II"

Bumper sticker
: "EARTH FIRST! We'll screw up the other planets later."

Best Underground Newspaper/Alternative Press Title Ever: (So far. I'm only in the B's) The Buddhist Third Class Junk Mail Oracle (has the variant title of The Barking Rabbit)

With Friends Like These: Overheard on a bus. The young lady was discussing the return to town of her "best friend from high school" with (I assume) her boyfriend:

"You remember Bob. Dirty, skanky, hippie Bob?"
"Ohhhhh. Yeah."
"He's back. Still filthy." Silence for a moment. Then, "You wanna go over and say hi?"
He shrugs. She pulls the cord, and they get off at the next stop.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


My camera's come home! Yay! In celebration (and to make sure it's working) I took the accompanying picture of the cat. The second I pointed the camera at her, she came over all coy and decided to pretend she was asleep.

The hafla was a lot of fun. Some of my (more advanced) fellow students performed -- one to Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," which went over pretty well. My teacher and two of the members of the Tribal class did some improv dancing, the teacher playing zills the whole time. Then they did a piece of a choreography that they're putting together for a show next month -- dancing with swords! That was pretty cool. At one point they were each balancing a blade on one hip while dancing, and at another point they had the blades on their heads (like this). Wow.

After all the performance pieces were done, we moved some of the tables out of the way, joined hands, and did the "circle bellady" dance we'd been taught while our teacher played zills and her private student/apprentice played a drum. I managed to do that without tripping over myself. Then she put on some music and we cut loose. Well, most of us did. I got hit by a wave of shyness and sat down a little while after we were done the circle dance. I preferred to watch people who knew what they were doing and make mental notes.

I brought my friend the Chief Loon with me. As we were leaving the party she turned to me and said, "Now I want to belly dance." She also pointed out that you could really see the difference between our teacher and most of the students. She's right. When we dance, we concentrate on the muscle we want to move and hold everything else fairly still. When my teacher dances it appears effortless and fluid. I wonder how long it took for things to get like that.

I'm noticing some improvement in my own dancing. This past Sunday was the start of a new 8-week session. Most of the women who were in the class with me last time have graduated to Belly Dance 2 -- they'd been in BD1 for quite a while, some of them at least a year. Last Sunday we had six new people, one other woman from the previous session, and me. Our teacher went through the whole introduction again--positioning, arms, walking--and then had us walk in a circle, just like last time. I caught sight of myself in the mirrors and was pleased. I look like I know what I'm doing. I don't have to remind myself to keep my lower abdomen pulled in, or to roll my shoulders back. Looks like I'm catching on.

I'm on my lunch break, so I have to cut this short. I'll try to remember for next time to explain the difference between "tribal" belly dance and what I'm learning.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Desperately waiting for fashions to change

Clothes-shopping makes me grumpy.

All I wanted was a skirt and blouse to wear to the hafla today. The skirt was easy, I found that right off. Apparently the long, flowing "bohemian" style is back in. Great, wonderful, that'll be good to dance in. Now, finding a top, that's another story. How come all the summer tops are sheer, or have these teeny tiny little spaghetti straps? Call me old-school, but I really don't want my undergarments showing through or peeking out from under my clothes. It took 10 minutes to find a skirt, two hours to find a blouse. Thank goodness I wasn't looking for slacks, I'd probably have been in the mall until the place closed for the night.

Part of the down side of living in a college town is that most of the clothes you find in shops are aimed at the twenty-something set. I haven't been twenty-something for a while, and even if I did want to dress younger, I don't much care for the style right now. Almost everything looks like it's been shrunk in the wash. The clothes are too tight, and the waists of the bottoms don't even attempt to meet the waists of the blouses. You get about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of exposed skin. It looks all right on a certain body type (that of a stick insect, I mean), but for those of us who aren't a toned and fit size 6, it just looks horrible. We keep getting told that the U.S. is the fattest population on Earth, and then we're expected to wear sausage casings. Is this to prove a point? Are they trying to embarass us into looking better? 'Cause it ain't working. Most people just wear that horrible stuff whether it looks right on them or not, and when I walk down the street I wonder whether no one checks a mirror before they leave the house anymore.

I'm not what you'd call slender. In fact, I'm a bit chunky. I'm working on fixing that, and since I started a couple of years ago I've lost 100 pounds. Then my Grandma died, I got a bit depressed, and 20 of those lost pounds found their way back home again...but I am resolved. They are not here permanently.

I'm nowhere near my goal weight yet. The losing of those pounds only brought me down from "obese" to "overweight." I'm still not in any sort of shape to be wearing clothes that expose my belly. Funny, then, that I should take up belly dancing as a hobby, where the end result (supposedly) is to get up and dance in front of people in a costume that shows a lot of skin. I figure by the time I'm coordinated enough to do that, I'll be closer to the way I want to look. It's a very, very long-term goal.

And in the mean time, I guess if I want to find an outfit, I'll need to take a day off of work to do it. Oy.

Must dash. Going to go paint my toenails. If I'm dancing barefoot, my feet should look happy, no?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

What's been going on

There was a forest fire yesterday, on a mountain the next town over. This mountain doubles as the local ski resort. They had it mostly under control by this morning, but have lost about 400 acres of forest. Luckily, no one was hurt, though I'm sure the wildlife didn't get off so easily. The fire started when a tree fell on a power line and set off sparks. We haven't had much rain lately, which is why the thing caught as fast as it did. We couldn't see the fire at all where I live, but we got a lot of the smoke. It smelled of autumn (when people around here tend to rake their fallen leaves into big piles and burn them), and yet it looked like spring. It's an odd juxtaposition, and contradictory sensory input made for much confusion in the brain. At least it did with me.

I know it's been a while since I posted. Sorry. I've got a project at work that involves a lot of typing in Word and Excel, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit in front of another computer and type some more. Not to mention that the weather has been glorious, which keeps me out until dark. All sorts of trees are flowering. There are lilacs in bloom everywhere and sometimes when I pass one I get overcome with the need to go bury my nose in the blossoms -- after first checking for bees, of course.

It's finals week for the university. A very tense hush has settled over the area. All around campus and in various eating-places downtown you will find bleary-eyed, overcaffeinated, anxious students, trying desperately to cram into their brains every stray fact from every page of notes from every class they went to over the past four months. The library is open until 2 AM this week, everyday until Friday. We close early on Friday because the last final starts at 6:15 PM. Every student who isn't taking a test or preparing to take one is either out getting drunk or has already skipped town for the summer.

I encountered my first "last final drunk" of the semester on the bus ride home today. It was approximately 6:30, she'd been drinking since 4, and I'm pretty sure she'd already hit the stage where she won't be remembering how she got home. She got off the bus looking like she wanted to hug all of us good bye, but she settled for a wave and a heartfelt (if slurred), "Have a great evening, everyone!"

My belly dance instructor has put together a hafla for this Saturday, which also happens to be my Ditter's birthday. A "hafla," as it's been explained to me, is an Arabic word for "party." There's dancing involved. Anyone who wants to can get up and perform--they just have to run it by the teacher before the event. She's taught us all a dance that we're supposed to get up and do together at the end of the party--a folk dance, done in a circle. I'm looking forward to it. I'm bringing the Chief Loon with me.

That's about it. It really has been beautiful out. I wish I had my camera. I had to send it off to Connecticut to be fixed, and I don't know when I'll get it back. Soon, I hope. I bought a one-use camera, which is what I used to do before I had my digital one. I think I've been spoiled by being able to see right away how the picture will look, though.

I'll write more after the hafla. I'm sure there will be things to tell you.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wikipedia meme

Here's a meme I found at Kinjo's blog:

Go visit, enter your birthdate (excluding year), and pick three events, two births, and one death that occurred on your birthday.


  • 1693 - Date traditionally ascribed to Dom Perignon's invention of Champagne.
  • 1944 - Holocaust: A tip from a Dutch informer leads the Gestapo to a sealed-off area in an Amsterdam warehouse where they find Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family.
  • 2005 - Prime Minister Paul Martin announces that Michaëlle Jean will be Canada's 27th — and first black — Governor General.


  • 1901 - Louis Armstrong, American musician (d. 1971)
  • 1929 - Yasser Arafat, Palestine leader (d. 2004)


  • 1875 - Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer (b. 1805)

Friday, April 21, 2006

"This is what happens when you play with Lincoln Logs too long."

Aha! Figured it out. File name was too long. Blogger doesn't get my mother's sense of humor. I went to my computer and changed the file's original (huge) name to "stackowood" before I uploaded it, and Houston, we have liftoff. Now I'm going to go change the my file's name back. I like Mom's title better.

Backstory and horses

These are Dan and Cee, the two horses that the Amish work crew brought in to help them clear the land where my parents wanted to build. There was a lot of salable timber in that lot, most of it cherry trees. In lieu of payment, the lumber was carried off, milled, and appraised. Then it was decided how much the work had been worth and how much wood would be an equitable trade. The leftover wood was handed back to my Mom and Dad. There are enough board feet of cherry in what they got back to cover the dining room and living room floors. The cherry will be lying almost directly over the place where it once stood. I think that's pretty cool.

This idea of a cabin in the woods has been an ongoing discussion for as long as I can remember. There have always been magazines about log home-building and books of floor plans tucked in various corners of wherever we were living. It's been so long in coming, I was beginning to think it would never happen. They bought part of this property back when I was in high school, some 20 years ago now. A little while after that, a lot right next to it came up for sale. They bought that too, and joined it to the first piece. This gave them access to the cul-de-sac at the top of the mountain. Now their property extends from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom.

A couple of years ago they finally got the finances sorted out, found a plan they both liked from a company named Lincoln Log Homes -- yup, same name as the toy building blocks. There's even a link to the home-building site from the toy site. See it? In teeny print at the bottom?

The way the Amish got involved in the whole thing is like this: a lot of Amish having been moving into my parents' area in recent years, coming mainly from Ohio. It's a fairly large community now. Mom and Dad were out for a drive one afternoon, having a conversation about finding a contractor for the house. Just then they passed by an Amish farm that had a sign in the yard, advertising the farm's owner as a builder and carpenter. They pulled into the driveway and talked to the man, asking him if he thought he could build a log cabin from a kit. He thought he could, and he knew a lot of people who'd welcome the work. And just like that, with a few words and a handshake, they had the promise of a team of builders. He asked that they not refer to him as a "contractor"--something scriptural about contracts, apparently. So Mom asked what they should call him. "How about calling me 'Danny?'" he responded.

The horses in that picture are his. I'm not sure I have this right, but I think he's the one who milled the wood. He deals a lot with the English (the Amish really do refer to anyone from the outside world as "English." That wasn't just a gimmick they used in Witness), and has provided a lot of work for his fellow Amishmen. Wherever he lives, though, he tends to annoy the bishops. He skates right on the very edge of what's allowed, and I know of at least one time he was approached and formally corrected. He had too many worldly possessions to suit the group, apparently, and they told him he needed to give away one of his horses. Yes, he had to give it away, not sell it. He wasn't allowed to profit from the loss of it. So one of his little boys had to say goodbye to his pony. But Danny did get his point across to them. He made sure it didn't go to an Amishman. If he wasn't going to profit from his loss of it, neither would they. He gave it to a little English boy.

He finally got sick of them meddling in his affairs. I have a feeling this happens to him wherever he goes, too--he's lived a number of places. Not long after he finished my parents' house, he auctioned off his animals, his furniture, and various pieces of his farm equipment, sold the land, and moved his very large family to Virginia. Everybody misses him, especially my folks.

I live too far away to have witnessed most of the construction. Mom got a digital camera for Christmas a few years ago, and would email Ditter and me illustrated updates. The pictures had filenames like "still life with cement mixer" and "this is what happens when you play with Lincoln Logs too long." I've been trying to upload the latter to this Blog, but Blogger's having none of it. I wonder why. Oh well. Maybe next post. Since I didn't take the pictures myself, I can't load them into Flick'r, or I would. Well, I guess I am able, but I may not do it. Copyright infringement and all.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The new homestead

Every time I go visit my parents, something has changed. When I visited last November for Thanksgiving, they had installed cabinets and (finally!) a sink in the kitchen. Up to that point they'd been drawing water from the bath and toting it out to this contraption they had leftover from their days as restaurateurs -- an old salad bar cold table. It worked fairly well as a sink, except that it wasn't connected to a drain pipe. So dishes were washed in basins in this thing, then the water was schlepped back into the bathroom and flushed down the commode.

The cabinets, by the way, were finished by my Mom--in more ways than one. A lot of the people associated with the building of this house are Amish, and there have been a few miscommunications due to the fact that German (Old, Swiss, High German) is their first language, though most of them speak English very well. Mom and Dad had asked Andy (the carpenter) to leave the cabinets unfinished, meaning "don't paint them." Well, he didn't paint them. Nor did he sand, attach hardware or doors. He built the cabinets, shelves, and drawers, and left them "unfinished," as requested. So Mom spent a large chunk of autumn doing all of that before she could get to what she'd meant by finishing them -- painting them either a brown so dark that it's almost black ("espresso," I think that's called) or an antique white.

But as I say, that was done last November. This time it was the bath room that's looking more pulled together. More storage, and a funky toothbrush/soap/cup holder made out of brushed nickel that looks like a plumbing fixture. And huzzah! Knobs on the doors to the bathroom and the bedrooms! Previously, Mom had taped over the knob-hole of the bathroom door (for privacy's sake, much to my Dad's amusement. As if he's going to peep at her), which meant that if you shut the door all the way you had no way to open it again and you had to ask someone on the other side to let you out.

On Easter Monday, they'd decided the weather was such that they could start the heavy carpentry-type stuff again. Dad's been installing a radiant heat system in the floors. This cabin has a cathedral ceiling in part of it, so baseboard heat made no sense--the heat would leave the units, climb right up the wall and hang out at the roof line. Instead, the heat will come from piping in the floors, and heat the place from the ground up. Slight hitch: you can't use the system until all of it has been installed. They've spent the winter using propane space heaters and kerosene heaters, and lots and lots of layers of clothing. Brrrrr.

So Monday, I helped Mom shift everything in what is currently the dining area into what is currently the living room, after moving a few pieces of the living room to other parts of the house. With the floor clear, Mom and Dad then proceeded to lay down the wooden guides (that Dad designed himself) for the tubing of the heating system. Pip (their dog) and I stayed in the front bedroom, where I knitted and Pip sat on the bed, facing the doorway, watching the sub-floor get built. Every time Dad came into her line of sight, she wagged her tail. It was funny. Poor dog. She is not a fan of change, and that's all they've been doing for at least two years now--change in small increments.

There will be more later. I've promised G a blog entry with pictures of the horses that cleared the land, and that will need a bit of an explanation. It's way too much to add to this post. Let me leave you with a picture of how things looked outside as of last August.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hippity hoppity

Perched atop the packed overnight bag by the front door, my cat is eyeing me suspiciously. There is an overflowing bowl of cat food and an extra bowl of water on the kitchen floor. The cat box is scrupulously clean. I went bed last night very, very early, and my alarm clock went off at 3:30 AM. She thinks Something Is Going On. She's pretty sure I'm leaving for a long weekend.

She disapproves of this activity. There's one she disapproves of more than my traveling without her, though, and that's when I take her along. For then she has to be in the cat carrier. She hates that thing. O, the indignity of riding in a box with a handle on top! The entire time she's in it, she shouts to be let out. She's three-quarters Siamese, and when she gets upset all that heritage comes right out her mouth. Drives people crazy. Who wants to hear "MAAAAAAAOOO!" from the back seat for hours on end? So she stays home, and I feel guilty about leaving her alone. I make sure I stay away no more than 4 days. Any longer than that, and I'd have to arrange for someone to come in and check on her. That means I'd have to clean. And I think you know how I feel about that.

I'm headed north-west to my parents' (not so) little log cabin in the woods for Easter. I don't know whether I'll be able to get online while I'm there. Mom was saying yesterday that they're having trouble with their Internet connection at the moment. And if the day is cloudy, turning on the computer would mean running the generator, which Dad might not want to do. Their house is solar-powered, and they're still in the experimental stages with it. They probably need another panel or two, but they're not sure yet.

On a completely unrelated note, I have an earworm that only knows Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes. Ever since last Friday's impromptu rendition of "The Farmer and the Cowman" in a public toilet, I have not been able to get the sound track from Oklahoma! out of my head. Argh! I keep getting ambushed at odd moments -- folding my laundry and suddenly I'm humming "Poor Judd Is Dead;" taking a walk over my lunch break, I suddenly realize I'm striding along in time to "It's a Scandal;" washing my hair this morning with "I Cain't Say No" on endless repeat. Help!

Taxi should be here in about half an hour to take me to the bus. I should probably go eat some breakfast and fuss over Delilah for a bit. Happy Easter to all who celebrate it. Does one wish a Happy Passover? I don't know. Well, have one anyway. And to anyone who celebrates neither, enjoy your weekend.