Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!

Trick-or-Treating is done a little differently around here than it was where I grew up. In the suburbs of Philadelphia, you went out in your costume on the 31st of October, always. And you stayed out until you'd either run out of doors to knock on, or you were tired, or your parents called you home. The 30th of October was called "Mischief Night," and people would get up the next morning to find their car windows soaped up (or maybe even egged, though that didn't happen often in my neighborhood), or the tree in the front yard festooned in toilet paper, or maybe the mailbox covered in silly string.

Around here, the night of Trick-or-Treating gets decided at the township level. A lot of the surrounding areas had theirs last night, from 6pm until 8pm. Tonight was my borough's night, again from 6 to 8.

The apartment where I used to live was in an area that was kind of dark and creepy at night. In all the time I lived there, I never had one little kid on my doorstep asking for candy. I bought something every year, just in case. Towards the end there, they were kind of lame treats -- sugarless gum, granola bars, bags of microwaveable popcorn. Well, if I wasn't going to have anyone show up, it should be stuff I don't mind having around the place, right?

There are a lot of children on this side of town, so I just assumed I'd have Trick-or-Treaters this year. I had no idea how many to expect. From the Tweets I was reading last night, some of the folks nearby went through 8 bags of candy before they were done. Yikes! I'd only bought one big bag, a mix of Starbursts and Skittles. On the way home from work today, I stopped and picked up a couple of bags of Tootsie Pops, just in case.

It's quarter to nine now. Wanna see what my candy bowl looks like? Here ya go:

Slight miscalculation

I think I may have overestimated just a tad. I had ten kids, total. Still, that's ten more than I had last year. Guess whose co-workers are going to have sugar highs come Monday?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I'm feuding with my freezer.

There's an ice and water dispenser on the door of the freezer, and when I first moved in I was all, "Oooh! I have an ice maker! " I envisioned myself never having to make do with warm soda just because I'd forgotten to fill the trays and to chill the new bottle when I noticed the old one was getting low. Making smoothies would no longer require having to make ice for them the day before. I can have a spontaneous smoothie! I was in beverage heaven. And the cat likes that I get her water from the fridge instead of from the tap (she's so spoiled), so the water dispenser is another plus.

Here's the thing, though. This ice maker was made for a two(or more)-person household. I don't go through the ice fast enough I guess, and the dang thing doesn't have a sensor to tell it when it's made enough. It's like the broom in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. So I either have to fill a glass or two full of ice and toss it into the sink daily (wasteful), or reach in and turn the thing off periodically (which is fine until suddenly there's no ice and I'm all waah! I want ice!). 'Cause if I don't, the result is something along the lines of what happened a few minutes ago:

It's lunch time. I decide I'm going to have one of the Lean Cuisine single serving pizzas that I bought Wednesday. I open the freezer and shout words that would make my mothers lips go very tight if she heard me as I am bombarded with ice. The freezer door has been holding it in position, waiting to smack me with it. Kind of like the Three Stooges bit with a bucket balanced on top of a slightly open door. When I try to reach into the machine to get at the shut-off lever I am hit with more. And more. And more. Big chunks formed from smaller bits that have fused together hit me, separate into slightly smaller chunks, hit the floor, break, and scatter everywhere.

I slam the door shut and chase down ice bits, particularly the ones that have bounced over to the laminate flooring. I have been warned by my realtor and the inspector that laminate shouldn't be allowed to have puddles on it, that would ruin it.

In all the fuss, I forgot what I was in the freezer for. Oh! Pizza. Dare I try again? I open the door slowly this time, hiding behind it, and, when nothing falls out, cautiously peek around. There is ice all over the inside of the freezer. I clean that out, manage to get to the shut-off lever without a second bombardment, then collect my lunch. After I shut the door I hear the ice inside shift.

As I'm writing this, the fridge just kicked on, and it sounds like it's laughing at me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The name game meme

By a rather convoluted path (okay, maybe not so much: Whooppee to The Bloggess to Biddy) I found a meme I'm a-gonna answer. It's called The Name Game. Here we go:

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car)
Needles Buspass

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)
Moosetracks Nilla Wafer ('Sup, yo?)

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name)

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal)
Det. Rose Leopard (Pink Leopard sounded like a drink)

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born)
Anne Meadowbrook

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first)
Lenva (that sounds like a cleaning product)

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink)
The Green Sea Breeze (Oooh, that one worked nicely)

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers)
Alfred Darwin

9. STRIPPER NAME: ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy)
Lilac Candied Orange Peel --no, no, no. How about Jasmine Toffee? No, that sounds like some sort of hippie-trippy band from the 60s or 70s. Diorissima Peppermint (the perfume is Diorissimo, I switched it so the gender would be right). I guess that will have to do.

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names )
Ruth Charles

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter)
Roland Raleigh (it sounds better the other way around : Raleigh Roland)

12. SPY NAME/BOND GIRL: (your favorite season/holiday, flower)
Summer Rose. (Another one that would sound better backwards: Rose Summers)

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Strawberry Socky

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree)
Fiber One with Dried Cranberries Oak

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”)
The Embroidering Sunshine Tour (Ooh! I need to form a band just so we can go on this tour!)

Anyone else want to try his/her hand at this? Like you have nothing better to do, I know.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I decided to avoid the rush, and have my Monday on a Wednesday

I have said jokingly to a number of people (though apparently not here. I just did a search and came up empty) that it wasn't going to hit me that this townhouse of mine was really mine until I locked myself out and realized there was no one else who had keys for the place.

Guess what? Running around like a nut this morning, trying to make the 7:25 bus, I lock the doorknob, slam the door shut behind me, and swear profusely. The keys are on the kitchen table. I put my forehead to the door and say, "You're mine. All mine. Damn it."

Two doors down, I can see the flickering of a TV behind mostly closed curtains. I knock, introduce myself, and ask to borrow a phone book so that I can call a locksmith. Fellow invites me in. I've already met his wife and the dog--little cute loud fluffy thing, who growls and barks and then, if you decide to pet him, wags so hard his feet lift off the ground. His name is Scooter, but I think a better one would be Fizzgig. That's who he reminds me of.

I choose a locksmith at random, call, get their answering service. They say they'll call someone who'll call me right back. I hang around at the neighbors' for a little bit and chat, mainly about the upcoming annual owners' meeting, which is the first Sunday of November. Then I decide I've intruded long enough, thank him for his help, and go back outside in the bitter cold to sulk. I call work and tell our receptionist that I'll be in later.

I get off the phone with her just in time. The locksmith calls right then, saying he's 45 minutes away, quoting me the price for a home lock-out, and informing me he'll need proof that I live here either before or shortly after he lets me in. I have my ID on me, and luckily I've gotten all the address and voter registration stuff changed months ago, so this isn't going to be a problem. Next I call a member of my team to let her know what's up.

"Oh, Vee!" Lana says. "And it's such a cold morning!"

"Yeah. Well, my neighbor said I could stay there til the locksmith shows up, but I didn't want to impose."

And so I sit on the edge of my flower bed (the wooden logs the inspector said I should replace. Haven't gotten that far yet. Still sorting out the inside of the house) and read the book I have in my purse. Until my fingers get too cold to turn the pages, that is. Then I wander around looking at the flower bed itself, and do a little bit of impromptu weeding.

45 minutes and $55 later, I am in my house. Grab my keys, head to work.

And the day goes downhill from there. Today is the start of what our tech services people call "life cycle," which means some of us get new terminals, and all of us get new images for our workstations. They have some sort of order that they do this in, starting with the folks who get new equipment, and then moving on to reimaging. I'm on the equipment list this year. So most of the morning I wait for the tech guys to get to me (I guess they stopped by first thing, but I wasn't there. They need me to log in so they can check some things before they shut everything down and cart the machine away), then the rest of the morning I wait for them to go away. Only they don't go away, because the new CPU keeps freezing during start-up, and Jay can't figure out why. At 11:30, he unplugs everything, tucks the CPU under his arm, and announces he is taking it back downstairs to reimage it. He'll be back after lunch.

Whose lunch? His? Mine?

He shows up again about quarter after one with the CPU again, plugs all the cables back in, and we have the same problem. He fiddles around with stuff and gets it to work. He leaves to go set someone else's replacement in motion, and I start to do my part--restoring things from a back-up file I made the day before--when Windows kicks me out and reboots. And freezes. I chase Jay down, bring him back, and he fiddles around again, trying to figure out what is causing the problem. Gets it to work. I go back to restoring, and then at the end of everything Windows has a ton of updates to install. After that, the system needs to restart again, and three guesses what happens next. Yep. Freezes. It takes another half hour before he figures out it's a bad cable connecting the CPU with these two little USB ports on the side of the monitor. He pulls that, and everything is fine. He's going to find me another cable, but it's not something I can't work without.

It takes until about 2:30 to get everything back the way I had it, and then I finally can do some work...uh-oh. I can't find the files for the database we all use to catalog. I call over one of the tech liaisons (people in my department who've been trained to handle the more minor tech-update stuff, so the tech services people can move faster), and he can't find it either. So I go off in search of Jay again.

I find him in the head of the department's office, talking her through setting things up on her terminal (she was on the new equipment list too). He notices me in the doorway and says something like "aaaand there's Vee, trying to get my attention."

"I miss you," I reply.

"I'll be over in a minute."

I finally do find what I'm looking for on my own--it's not a folder, just an icon. Once I click it, a whole bunch of stuff gets downloaded, and then I have a folder. I jump up and call to him as he's coming down the aisle, "Nevermind! Fixed it myself!"

I settle down to work, and am reminded by my scheduling program that I have to be somewhere in ten minutes. Sigh. One hour-long meeting later, it's four o'clock, and I'm firing up the cataloging program, only to find that I have to do the same thing to that that I had to do to the whole computer. My preferences have all vanished, along with the custom toolbar I made a while back. Argh.

It's 4:45 before I get anything worthy of the word "work" done. Quitting time is at 5. I stay until quarter after 5, because I was an hour and a quarter late, and you can only apply vacation time in half-hour increments.

They sure didn't get their money's worth outta me today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New friends, old frenemies

Bumped into Jane today. Realized recently that I haven't seen her since just after Easter, when she rained on my parade, house-wise. I didn't avoid her, but I didn't seek her out, either. I could've called or emailed. I just didn't.

Anyway. I was headed into an on-campus eatery for lunch and I saw her sitting with someone we both knew. Popped over to say hey. She heard about the move, and congratulated me (!). Then she told me how her summer has been. A college she once applied to informed her a few months back that their database got hacked into, and someone may have her name, birthdate, and social security number. (!!) Then her house got broken into (totally separate group of criminals, she's sure), and they stole tons of antiques that were in the attic, cash, her father's war medals, and her bank statements and credit card bills (!!!) Holy freaking crap. She's pretty sure they'd been watching her for a while, and when she went off to her mother's for the evening they broke in and cleaned the place out. Odd thing is, they left all the electronic devices. Digital camera, mp3 player, laptop.

She's taking it pretty well. Was talking about it like it was an adventure. Well, it was months ago now, she's had time to process it. She's got a credit watch out on her name to make sure no one tries any funny business. And she changed over all her accounts pronto. She had to get back to work, so our conversation was relatively short, but she promised to get together for dinner or something sometime this month.

And then when I came back from lunch, one of the people I follow/who follows me on Twitter who happens to be local suggested lunch on Friday for all of the local Tweets (I guess that's what we're called? I've heard Tweet, Tweetpeeps...not Twits, though. At least, not to our faces), and after a moment's hesitation (oh no, my anonymity! Ah, stuff anonymity), I said, "OK."

So I'm about to meet some of the folks in my area who use Twitter, face-to-face like. I feel like I should make a little badge with my Twitter avatar on it. Nah. That would be silly.

Friday, October 17, 2008


This is the problem with moving into a larger space, one where you have designated a room just for crafts. Suddenly there's all sorts of room for more supplies. I recently got bit by the yarn bug again -- must have something to do with the return of colder weather -- and in the past four weeks I bought all the yarn in this photo.

But! I am using it. Really, I am. See that knitted thing at the top? That's a scarf. I'm using another of the off-white skeins at the bottom for it. And then I'm doing a hat and mittens in the same yarn. I got the hat pattern from Antonia of Whoopee. She started knitting after her daughter was born a couple years back, and after making a bunch of things for other people, she decided to make a hat for herself. Not liking most of the patterns she saw, she decided to make one up. I'm in awe. She's a relatively new knitter and she's already designing her own things.

The pattern is on Flick'r, accompanying a photo of Antonia modeling the hat.

I'm also going to learn how to make socks, using the long skinny red skein. And there's a hooded scarf in the works for that bumpy red stuff in the lower left corner.

Okay, the blue skeins are an extravagance. They are so soft! I couldn't let go of them once I picked them up--a combo of wool, alpca, and silk, hand dyed in Chile. Yummy. I am very glad the little shop I went to is as difficult for me to get to as it is. If it were easier, I'd be broke.

That other stuff? That's viscose. I bought it as part of a kit, and now that I've read the instructions, I think I'm going to do something else with the yarn. The instructions are very vague. Maybe I'll do it. We'll see.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ambush Vacay

I'm on vacation. I didn't tell anyone (outside of my coworkers, who kinda need to know why my cubicle will be empty for a solid week) that I was taking it, as I didn't want to have to make plans. Selfish, I know. But you know what? Don't care. Again, selfish. Again, don't care.

I sort of had to take it, actually. I earn 16 hours of vacation time a month, and am allowed to accumulate up to 240 hours. After that, I won't earn any more until I use some. It adds up fast. I was getting rather close to the upper limit, so I decided it was time for some time off.

Friday afternoon Cheryl, a friend of mine from college, called me at work to let me know she was going to be in town Saturday. She's a substitute teacher in the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton area during most of the year, but on weekends and in the summer she travels around doing demonstrations for a company that specializes in foods for dogs and cats on a raw diet.

Yep. Raw. 90% raw meats, 10% fruits and vegetables. It purports to be what dogs and cats used to eat before they met man, and is better for them. I've seen the results. Cody, Cheryl's oldest dog, had a skin condition when he was a one-year-old. She switched him to a bones-and-raw-food diet, and the condition cleared up. Now she won't feed her dogs anything else--she owns and breeds Shetland sheepdogs now.

Anyway, Cheryl was in town with a friend/co-worker/fellow Sheltie breeder (whose name just fell out of my head. How embarrassing), doing pet food demos at a natural food store in town. I stopped by to say "hi," and pet good ol' Cody, who is 14 and 1/2 now, mostly deaf, starting to go blind (Cheryl thinks) and is still a sweetheart. Got to meet another of her dogs, Banner, and three others owned by her friend (Kim? Kelly? Dang it, she had on a name tag, even): Libby, who is Banner's litter-mate, Angel, a daughter of one of my friend's other dogs, and Bella, Angel's mother. They bring their animals with them to show folks what dogs that live on a raw diet look like. They also had a three-week-old kitten with them, not as part of the demo or pet food thing. Dexter is a found kitten, three weeks old. His mama got hit by a car, and he had no one to take care of him so Kim is doing it (I've decided that until I remember her name, she will be Kim). He needs a lot of attention right now, and a number of feedings, so he got brought along. He's a sweetie.

It was customer appreciation day at the store, which is what Cheryl and Kim were doing there. There were free samples all over the place, as well as representatives from a lot of different companies. We had some local folks with food products (I've bought the jellies of the one company when I find them at the farmer's market. Good stuff. Ever had raspberry and chipotle jam on your morning toast? Wakes you up faster than coffee), and some other folks selling good-for-you energy drinks (anybody ever heard of Brain Toniq?), food supplements featuring the antioxidants found in pomegranates, something called cell food (I think), and then Cheryl and Kim with the pet food. I didn't taste any of the samples because I had peppermint gum in my mouth, and I was sure that'd throw off my taste buds. Everything in the place was 20% off, and though the aisle of herbal remedies, vitamins, and supplements had me scratching my head, there were tons of foodstuffs I need to remember to tell my family about. They have this beverage called Dandy Blend that my parents drink, it's made from dandelion root, chicory, and a number of other herbs and spices. Tastes just like coffee, but with no caffeine. All sorts of wheat- and gluten-free things that I should send to the Virginia relations--my uncle has a wheat allergy. Something called Better'n Peanut Butter, a peanut butter substitute made from peanut flour that has 1/2 the calories and about 1/4 of the fat of peanut butter. My mom had bought something similar from another company and served it with breakfast the last time I was home. 2 tablespoons are 100 calories. Well, I'm not sure what the calories were on her product, because hers was a powder you mix with water. What I was looking at yesterday was reconstituted. Hers may have had fewer calories.

There were so many things in there that I wanted to try, but I hadn't brought much money with me. I had trouble choosing. I ended up buying some crystallized ginger, some fair-trade vanilla extract, and a little bottle of maple flavoring for Cheryl's Dad. He's a diabetic who misses being able to put maple syrup on his oatmeal. He's found if you mix a little bit of maple flavoring with some artificial sweetener you get the same taste. Cheryl has a hard time finding it where she lives. So I gave that to her to give to him.

I was only planning to stop by and say hi, but wound up hanging out with Cheryl, Kim, and the animals all day. Helped out a little bit (a very little bit--mainly background stuff, aiding little kids who wanted balloons, giving the dogs water, taking them for walks, finding ticks on them (!!!That made me a little itchy), helping pack up), talked and visited a whole lot. I can't remember the last time I saw Cheryl. It's been years.

I have pictures of everyone, I'll download 'em to Flick'r just as soon as I get them off my camera.

Came home around 6:00, caught a look at myself in the bathroom mirror. My face was very pink. That's what I get for standing in the sun for four hours (their station was outside, what with the animals and all). It's gone tannish now, and probably will be back to normal by Friday. The cat spent the evening sitting next to me on the sofa, sniffing my shirt all over--four dogs she didn't know, one she might vaguely remember, not to mention the kitten. Quite a bouquet.

And that was Ambush Vacation, Day One. Day Two has been quiet, consisting of me, knitting needles, a sofa, and a TV. Don't know what I'm doing tomorrow. Which is kinda the point of not making plans.

Edited on 10/17 to add: Emailed back and forth with Cheryl last night. Her friend's name is Kim. So the name fell out of my head and reinserted itself, and I just didn't trust it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Fiddling around with Photoshop

I love the filters on Photoshop. I can take photos that I'd love to see as paintings and, well, make 'em paintings. My favorite is still the very first one I did -- the one of a washed-out photo of my parents' dog, Pippin. Somehow or other Adobe took a slightly off, bluish picture of the dog on the porch and turned it into a watercolor done in blues. I was stunned. I liked it so much I took it to Kinko's and had them print it on watercolor paper. I then framed it and gave it to my Dad for his birthday last year. It hangs in their bedroom now.

This past Christmas I turned a photo of my second cousin Austin, asleep on my sister's chest and smiling, into a fresco. About a month ago I used the palette knife filter to make a painting out of a photo I took of one of the cats I met outside of the shop where my Dad had left the generator to get fixed. We were there to pick it up. This was Good Friday, the Friday before I took it into my head to go buy a house. Completely forgot all the pictures I took that weekend until I found the card they were on a few weeks ago. There are also some of Dad and Stretch putting up the tongue-and-groove paneling in what will be the dining room of my parents' house. Haven't downloaded them to Flick'r yet, because I need to clean them up on photoshop first.

And this morning I took the shot from the last post, applied the accent edges filter to it, and got this:

Water Tank Hollow, photoshopped

Neat, huh? Looks like I've been playing with pastels or something.