Sunday, July 27, 2008

Your Name in Print

There was a time-- starting back around seventh or eighth grade, I guess-- when I thought that seeing my name in print (in something more than a school-level publication) would be the pinnacle of success. I didn't expect to ever write anything that would make me world-famous, but even the humbler hope of simply being published and seeing my name in print gave me thrills.

Though other interests have since taken hold of me and I'm now much less given to literary daydream, the thought still has its appeal. However, if someone has serious hopes of publication, she probably ought to write more than the occasional slap-dash blog post or polymer clay tutorial, and as of yet, I haven't devoted the required time or effort to those old ambitions.

Despite my lack of "stick-to-itiveness" (can you believe that's an actual word in the dictionary?) in the writing department, I have been granted the pleasure of seeing my name in print in a real, "live" book! It's not quite the same as being The Author, of course, but it's still plenty thrilling to be mentioned at all!

Here I am credited as one of the "participating artists", in the back of the book:

This opportunity pretty much fell into my lap one day when one of the authors, Ruth Rae, wrote to ask if I'd be interested in contributing some polymer clay mini food charms for inclusion in the book. She'd seen my photos on Flickr and thought they'd work nicely in a charm bracelet or two. (Thank you, Flickr! (g))

It's been a while since that happened (this book-making business seems to take a lot longer than you might think), but earlier this month my complimentary copy arrived-- A Charming Exchange: 25 Jewelry Projects to Create & Share, by Kelly Snelling & Ruth Rae.

In amongst so many lovely jewelry-making projects and glossy photos, you'll see my miniature cupcakes, Pop-Tarts, and cookies. And my name (in a few different places)! (g) It really is a neat thing to have happen just when you're least expecting it. :o)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Mower, More "Stuff"

Our delivery from the home improvement store arrived Saturday morning, ahead of schedule.

The mower was of course the biggest single item. We purged the transmission, etc., and Donald tried it out. It seems to be working fine, and it makes the job go so much faster than with the walk-behind mower! We built a ramp into the shed, so now the mower's resting in its new home. ;o) I still haven't driven it, and I won't until Donald shows me how it works. I definitely don't want to do anything to "hurt" it.

For those who care about such things, it's a Husqvarna. Yes, that's a Swedish brand, but that wasn't the reason we chose it. (Really, it wasn't. Unless it was for Donald and he just tricked me into thinking it was an objective decision. . . (g)) I tried to research the different mowers in our price range, but it's impossible to tell much about these things. Even if you buy the most highly recommended model, you might end up with a dud (like one of my aunts did with her washing machine).

Anyway, here's the manufacturer's photo:
So, we now have most of the supplies we need to build the covered patio and pump house we've been planning. Unfortunately, the weather is pretty unbearable, right now. It's stifling out there, most of the day. Not exactly the kind of weather that tempts you to spend your entire weekend outside building things. Still, if we work during the cooler times of the day, we can get something done. I'm not good at estimating how long it takes to do things-- or how much we'll feel like doing at a time-- so I won't hazard a guess. (g)

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

In other news ;o) I'm planning to make chicken quesadillas for supper tonight. Last time I made them, I stuck the leftovers in the microwave to keep warm/safe from a housefly that had been tormenting me-- then promptly forgot all about them until lunchtime the next day. (!!!) It made me sick to have to throw them away, but one simply doesn't eat chicken that's been left out all night.

When will I ever learn? I shouldn't vary from my routines, lest disaster occur. ;o)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday Six -- Episode 221

I think this is last week's set of Saturday Six questions, but I'm in a memey mood, so. . .

1. You order a plate of wings: what’s your first choice: mild, hot, inferno or teriyaki?

Probably hot. I generally like spicy things to be spicy-- but not so hot that it's less of a flavor and than a burning sensation. But I don't honestly know, as I don't think I've ever ordered a plate of wings. We're not really interested in wings. Too much trouble for too little meat. (g)

2. Which makes the best base for barbeque sauce: mustard, vinegar or ketchup?

I'm not a barbeque sauce connoisseur, either. . . In my experience, the best base for barbeque sauce is barbeque sauce right out of the bottle! ;o) If I had to make my own, I'd probably use both ketchup and mustard, but keep the vinegar far, far away from me.

3. If you could learn the eleven herbs and spices used in Kentucky Fried Chicken, how likely would you be to attempt to make it yourself? Why?

I might give it a try, just for curiosity's sake. If I didn't try it, it wouldn't be for ethical reasons (g) but more because neither of us eat fried chicken that often as it is. Why get ourselves hooked on another food we really ought not to eat?

4. Take the quiz: Which condiment are you?

You Are Barbeque Sauce

You are a social person. You enjoy cooking for other people.

You are both skillful and competitive. You enjoy mastering hard tasks.

You appreciate complexity more than simplicity.

Your taste in food tends to lean toward interesting flavors.

You appreciate exotic spice combinations. You tend to like cutting edge, fusion cuisine.

You get along with all personalities from a distance. Except salsa personalities, who always seem to annoy you.

Hm. . . Not really. (g) I hardly ever cook for more than just the two of us. I enjoy the company of some people, but I doubt that makes me a social person. I'm definitely not into "cutting edge, fashion cuisine". And I actually eat much more salsa than barbeque sauce. Shocking how such a scientific quiz could be so very, very wrong! ;o)

Well, ok, the getting along with personalities from a distance is probably about right. . . I'm not sure about the complexity vs. simplicity thing. I just like what I like-- though maybe I like rich foods more than very plain ones. I am competitive, and I'm not without skill, though when I'm "mastering difficult tasks" I tend to become frustrated if the "mastering" takes longer than expected.

5. Of the condiments currently in your refrigerator, which would you say you have used the least in the last year?

Mayonnaise. I use it in only one or two recipes, and neither of us touches the stuff, otherwise.

6. After months of unsuccessful attempts, you finally get the recipe for a food you enjoy. When making it for the first time yourself, you discover an individual ingredient that you hate in everything else. Would you still make the dish with that ingredient, or would you try it without?

This happens with mayonnaise, from time to time. I still use the ingredient (though I may use less of it than is called for, in some cases).

On the other hand. . . We had a very bad experience with cumin, earlier in our marriage. We made up a big batch of something that called for (way too much) cumin, and because it needed to simmer all day, we were suffocated by the smell for hours. By the time we were supposed to eat it, neither of us could stand the flavor. (That smell still haunts me. . . Like the odor of those sharks we had to dissect in marine biology in high school. . . Ugh.) So these days-- even though I know it's in many of the prepared foods I eat-- I'd probably be hesitant to add it to recipes. Maybe I'd wait and see if it tasted like it needed it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Just Stuff

Nothing big to write about-- just tidbits of "stuff". . .

== == == == ==

Late last night, when we let Molly back in from her last walk, she brought a very dead little bird with her. I didn't see it until this morning. (Yuck.) Thank goodness she's still a "kitchen dog". At least it's possible to give our kitchen floor a thorough cleaning. As unpleasant as it was to find that anywhere in our house, finding it on our carpet, couch, or bed would've been so much worse!

== == == == ==

Donald had today off (yes, lots of days off, lately), so we went over the information we'd accumulated about "lawn tractors" (or whatever they call riding mowers, these days) and various and sundry other things, made a final list, and went back to Daphne to place our order. We were prepared to have to wait a bit to have it delivered, but they told us they should have it to us sometime tomorrow. (Maybe not until evening, but that's still tomorrow. (g))

Meanwhile, much of the lawn is embarrassingly unkempt. It really needs mowing! (Oh yeah, I guess I never mentioned that Donald tinkered around with the walk-behind mower some more, and we gave it some more tries, but so far we haven't been able to get it started.)

== == == == ==

Yesterday, I got a bunch of photos that I ordered online for cheap with a coupon code. (Thanks for the info, Mom!) Now I need to clear off a table, sit down, and do some scrapbooking! I haven't done that in a long while, so that should be fun. :o)

== == == == ==

Donald and I stopped for a treat on our way home from shopping, today. I had a chocolate malted milk shake-- the first in years and years. Malted milkshakes sure are tasty!

Sadly, I ought to cut down on the treats. While getting ready to leave, I caught a displeasing angle of myself in the mirror. Not the first time that's happened (g), but still. . . Must find some form of exercise that I don't hate so much that I quit after a few days. . .

== == == == ==

One of my dreams last night involved a smell (an old powdery smell), which made me realize that I don't often dream of scents-- or at least I don't often remember scents from dreams.

I was curious about how common it is to "smell" things in dreams, so I looked around a little online. It's funny how people seem to take special pride in their ability to remember dreams and in the "quality" of their dreams.

"I always dream in very vivid color."
"Oh yeah? Well, when I dream, it's so real that I can't tell whether I'm dreaming or not."

"I smelled something in my dream last night."
"Yeah, I do that all the time. Actually, I have everything in my dreams-- smell, sound, touch, sight, taste. . . I read somewhere that the more senses you have in your dreams, the higher your level of intelligence. (You know, just fyi.)"

(Those aren't direct quotes, but they're close enough. (g))

Thursday, July 17, 2008

3x Thursday

Questions from this week's 3x Thursday:

1. How come we have to put so much effort into keeping our bodies healthy? Has it always been this hard?

I suspect that part of it is that we're just more health-conscious, these days. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I get the feeling that we focus more on health-- eating the right diet, getting enough exercise, taking vitamins and other supplements, going to doctors for exams, etc.-- than previous generations did. Not to say that we all actually carry through on these things, but most of us know that we're "supposed" to. We're constantly bombarded with health-related information. (Personally, I hate health news. I don't want to have to think about health stuff every day of my life. I'd gladly leave that for doctors and nurses and pharmaceutical types.)

Believe it or not, people today (or at least those of us in modernized countries) have more leisure time than in any other period of history, which means we also have more time to worry about things like health. For most of the past, the majority of people were busy enough just making sure they had the food and other necessities for survival.

Of course, easy access to food tempts us to overindulge. Paired with our "sit-down" lifestyle, this leads to all sorts of health problems.

2. Why do you think some people put things like work and 'having nice things' before just being a happy person?

A number of things come to mind:
  • They think that they'll achieve happiness through work and "nice things".
  • There are problems in their lives, and working/getting new things is a distraction.
  • Their parents modeled this behavior, so they don't know how else to "be".
Of course, it could also be that they enjoy their work. As long as you derive satisfaction from your job-- and don't work yourself sick-- work can be part of being a happy person. And everyone likes getting something nice from time to time. It's all a matter of moderation and keeping things in perspective.

3. How come human beings in general are so selfish? Don't you think we should be helping each other out instead?

Are we that selfish? I mean, yeah, I know that basic human instinct is to take care of #1, but I believe that most of us are willing to help those we see in real need.

I believe we should all strive to take care of ourselves and our own families first. ("Charity begins at home.") If everyone did that to his honest best ability, there would be few left in need-- and those few could easily be provided for through the generosity of others.

Unfortunately, these days it seems that more and more people expect a handout from the Government, which really means a handout from The Rest of Us-- and this makes some of us less likely to feel in a charitable mood.

When we see people with their hands constantly out-- people who squander what they have-- who refuse to live frugally and give up extravagances (alcohol, cigarettes, video games, name brand food and clothes)-- who continue to create children they have no intention of supporting (physically, emotionally, or spiritually)-- who seem uninterested in finding a way to contribute to their own up-keep-- we rightfully question where charity ends and entitlement begins. Yes, it is that feeling that some people believe they are entitled to your hard-earned money-- money you traded some of your precious life to earn-- it is that sense of entitlement that withers the generous impulse in the human heart.

I'm willing to do something of my own free will to help people in genuine need, but I don't think it's any one else's place to tell me what I "should" be doing. It's not selfishness to realize that you earned what you have, and that it's up to you to decide how and where and when to use it.

For anyone who believes that we're a selfish nation, I recommend this article by John Stossel: "Are Americans Cheap?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By Any Other Name. . .

I've written before about the ups and downs of being a girl named "Michael". I still get the occasional double-take or "Is it 'Michelle'?"-- and just last week the lady renewing our Sam's Club membership was momentarily confused-- but I can't think of myself by any other name. If I had been born in Sweden, the Swedish tax authorities might not have allowed it. (I'd have been "Nicole" or "Holly" or something, then. I think those were two of the alternates. . .)

According to this article on The Local, a Swedish couple won't be allowed to name their daughter "Elvis" because "it is the National Tax Board's view that Elvis is a first name of a masculine type and as such may, in light of standard practice, be considered clearly inappropriate as a first name for a woman".

Now, I wouldn't really want to name a son "Elvis", either, because, well, it feels too "taken". Kind of like naming your daughter "Madonna", though that would be about 1000 times worse, considering what Madonna stands for, IMNSHO. ;o) But their argument seemed to be more that it was a masculine name-- not that the name is strongly associated with a cultural icon.

(Incidentally, is it just me, or is it amusing that the same people who are making judgments about the "appropriateness" of a child's name based solely on his/or gender would probably never let it be said that they make judgments about whether or not someone behaves according to their gender or "identifies" with that gender, etc.? I just find that very interesting. They wouldn't want little Suzy to think that she had to live a "traditionally feminine" life. No, she should be encouraged to do everything the boys do-- from playing with toy trucks to majoring in engineering. And if she should someday decide that she's not really a girl at all, I'm sure they'd think that was ok, too. But in the meantime, it's vitally important that she have a "first name of the feminine type"!)

I'm sure this system of having the government "approve" names was originally kindly meant. I guess it's supposed to protect kids from the weirdest names their eccentric (or merely thoughtless) parents might come up with. Still, it just doesn't sit right with me. I wouldn't appreciate my government telling me that I can't name my child as I see fit. (If s/he hates the name that much, they can go by a nickname or even have it legally changed!) I suspect that the majority of Swedes are fully capable of picking good names for their children without the Tax Board's seal of approval. (Seriously, Sweden, what is it with you and the tax man? (g))

Besides, evidently they still let some kooky names slip through. (There are two Swedish girls named "Mettalica" and "Metallica".)

ETA: I just found another blogger's compilation of a few odd names approved in Sweden, as well as a brief background on the whole process of having names approved.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You can't trust the Internet, etc.

Or at least, you can't trust everything you read on it.
But you already knew that, didn't you? ;o)

Some of you also know that when someone sends you a photograph of themselves standing on a gigantic ant bed, it might be a joke photo that they made with Photoshop. . . (g)

. . .On the subject of Photoshopped pictures, here's a little quiz that tests your ability to tell whether or not a photo has been manipulated. (I think it's a little hard to tell, sometimes, with such small photos, but it's still interesting. If you want to give yourself a little better chance on the quiz, you might want to watch the segment of NOVA that deals with this subject.)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, yeah. I was making the brilliant observation that many times you can't trust what you read online, because anyone (myself included (g)) can get on here and write just about anything. Sometimes we know what we're talking about, but sometimes we don't.

For instance, I was wondering why some yarn is called "ombre" and some is called "variegated". I figured there must be a difference-- but what? I (of course) looked to the Internet for an answer. Multiple sources indicate that "ombre" yarn is dyed various tints and shades of a single color/hue (dark blue, medium blue, and pale blue, for example), while "variegated" yarn is dyed a number of completely different colors (yellow, blue, and green). This holds true for some of the yarns I've seen, but there are also plenty of "ombres" that don't fit that definition.

So which is correct? The supposed definitions of ombre and variegated yarns, or the manufacturers and namers of yarns? Even the Internet can't tell me-- and it's so vital that I know, too! ;o)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dog-lovers: There are some new photos of Soffi (Donald's parents' new puppy) here. There's also a video of Soffi and Lukas playing together. (Just be aware that the video may take a while to load.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

After taking a little break from crochet, I finally tried my hand at making something other than a granny square. Nothing fancy-- just a simple flower shape from some scrap yarn. I imagine I made some mistakes along the way (partly because there are still a couple of things I'm not 100% sure how to do), but at least you can make out that it's a flower.

You know what this means? I may be able to follow patterns, provided that they're very basic. Amazing. ;o)

It may not sound like much, but I'm not much for following patterns. I was more of a "play it by ear/heart" musician in Band-- which meant I never applied myself much to learning to read sheet music well-- which meant my sight-reading skills were very poor, later on. I'm pretty much a "play it by ear" sort of person in most of my hobbies. . . I think I prefer some things that way, but for crochet, it's probably a good idea to learn to follow patterns.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Donald and I went out for lunch and a movie, today. We saw WALL-E. I'm not sure what I expected, but whatever my expectations were, I think they were surpassed. (g) It was a really sweet and amusing movie-- especially considering that the main character is a robot.

I don't want to give away too much, so just to be sure that I don't spoil it, I'm posting a SPOILER WARNING now. Don't read the rest of this post if you don't want the film potentially spoiled for you.



(for WALL-E)


I was already in a somewhat more emotional mood than usual, today. (I woke this morning from a sad dream involving Daisy, and some of those feelings were still hanging around, I guess.) So I'm not sure how much of my emotional response to this movie was from something other than the movie itself. . . Maybe it was the lack of dialog in the first part of the film. Maybe WALL-E reminded me of E.T. Who knows! (g) Whatever it was, I found myself repeatedly getting teary while watching this movie.

As I wrote before, over all, I enjoyed the film. It was sweet in spots, funny in others, and generally entertaining. Even if you aren't a "robot person" (and I'm not), most people will enjoy this movie.

However, there are definitely some not-so-hidden messages. For instance:
  • People are growing increasingly fat and lazy.
  • People are so constantly connected to their gadgets that they're becoming distanced from one another and disconnected from the world around them.
  • The world is becoming too "consumerist"/consumption-driven.
  • We're killing the planet, and soon the only way it will be able to "heal" itself is for us to leave for a long, long time.
I think there's truth in some (not all) of the messages. (Well, obviously. All we have to do is look around us-- or even in the mirror :o(-- to see the first one.) However, I can't really envision a future where there'll be so much garbage that there's nowhere else to put it but to pile it higher than sky-scrapers. (g) And honestly, I guess what it boils down to is that I feel that it should be my decision how much I want to "consume". Also, I'm a bit put off by the trendiness (some would say "timeliness", but no, I mean "trendiness") of the environmental angle.

Anyway, even though there were "messages", they certainly didn't ruin the film for me (and I think Donald found them less obvious that I did. . . or at least not really "political" in nature). If you want to see a really weird movie full of propaganda, rent Happy Feet. Not really appropriate for young kids (assuming you don't want to brainwash them). . . Nowhere near amusing enough to hold an adult's attention. . . Who in the world was the target audience?! I didn't care for it. ;o)

Well, enough rambling. . . Back to regular schedules tomorrow!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Held Hostage by Lightning

Yesterday, we spent part of the morning going through and making extensive lists of exactly what we think we'll need to build our little shaded patio and a small pump house (it's really about time, I think!). We'll probably have the riding mower delivered, and Donald figured we might as well save gas, time, and wear on a borrowed truck by having them deliver the other big, heavy stuff, too. (If we understand correctly, adding more items to the list shouldn't change the flat rate delivery fee. We'll see. . .)

So, after making our list, we went to scope out the two major competitors in our area-- mainly to see what they have in the way of mowers-- so that we can make the final decision of what to buy and where. It went well enough, but we were held hostage for quite some time by torrential rain and lightning.

Fortunately, we were in a store when the storm hit, so we didn't have to sit in the car, but by that time, we were just getting ready to leave for the last stop of the day. I wasn't about to walk through that, though. We'd have been soaked instantly, not to mention potentially struck by lightning. So we (along with most of the people in the store) just milled around for a while, looking at things we had no plans of buying. (They have so many nice things in those home improvement stores! Can you imagine winning a shopping spree? I wouldn't know where to start. . .) Finally, we took a rest on one of the covered swings set up for display. (A couple other groups of people had the same idea. I'm sure those displays had never had so many people testing them at one time.)

That was probably the worst storm I've seen so far this year. And when we finally decided that it had slackened off enough that we dared risk going out, it was still raining, with lightning not far off. According to the local news, an air show at a local beach was postponed because of (separate) thunderstorms, and some people who had assembled to watch the show were struck by lightning.

Oh, the joys of summer in the South!
It definitely beats being so dry that we have out-of-control fires, but I could still do without some of the lightning.

On a happier note, Donald has Monday off, so this will be a nice, long weekend for us. :o)
I hope you're all enjoying a restful Sunday!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How is it pronounced?

I remember that at a certain point in school, I became self-conscious about reading aloud. Until that time, I'd always enjoyed it, because I knew I was good at it. (Let's just be honest, shall we? ;o))

I don't remember the details, but a teacher corrected my pronunciation, and I didn't want to further embarrass myself by mispronouncing even more words. I guess it didn't occur to me that the only way I'd learn correct pronunciation was to hear it. Instead, I felt that it would make me look stupid, and that annoyed me-- particularly when I knew what the word meant. (I'm still not really fond of corrections or so-called "constructive criticism", but I suppose few of us are.)

Anyway, I've long been sensitive to issues of pronunciation. (Maybe this has hindered my progress in learning Swedish. Yeah, that must be it. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that I never practice. . .)

I'm also interested in linguistic curiosities in general, so naturally I was amused to come across this list somewhere out on the vast WWW. Someone made an impromptu list of names whose bizarre pronunciations bear little resemblance to their spellings.

I'll just copy and paste the relevant bit so you don't have to wade through that forum I linked to above (unless you want to, of course):

Cockburn I mentioned above [pronounced "Coburn"], Other food related ones might be Worcester (sauce) pronounced Wooster; Leicester (cheese) pronounced lester
Other examples (not a complete list by any means)
Wymondham (pronounced Wind-am),
Waldergrave (=Wawgrayve),
Mainwaring (=Mannering),
Magdalene (=Maudlin),
Caius (=Keeys),
Auchinlech (=Aflek)
Althorp – pronounced 'Awltrup'
Belvoir – pronounced 'Beever'
Cholmondely – 'Chumli'
Featherstonehaugh – 'Fanshaw'
Leominster – 'Lemster'
Leveson-Gower – 'Loosen-Gaw'
Marjoribanks – 'Marchbanks'
Ralph – 'Rafe'
Ranulph – 'Ralph'
St. John – 'Sin Jin'
Towcester – 'Toaster'
Woolfardisworthy – 'Woolseri'
Wriothesley – 'Roxli'
Menzies - 'Minges'

Some of you will recognize that the pronunciation of one of those names is very similar to my own maiden name. Interesting! Maybe I have some incredibly distant cousins sipping tea in England under that name. Or maybe not. (g)

In the forum, the topic of St. John/Sin Jin's appearance in Jane Eyre came up. Some seemed to think that if you'd read the book, you'd know that "St. John" is pronounced "Sin Jin".

Part of me is (jokingly) offended because I myself read and loved the book, but never had a clue it wasn't pronounced "Saint John" until I saw a film based on the novel. (True, I thought "Saint John" was an awfully weird name-- yes, I do still form opinions on the weirdness of names, even though I have what is arguably an odd name, myself (g)-- but "Sin Jin" doesn't really seem more normal to me. In fact, it reminds me of "Sinbad the Sailor"!)

Another part of me just wants to laugh and say, "You've got to be kidding, right?!" It's a book! How am I supposed to magically "hear" the way a name is pronounced just by reading it? Especially if it's an odd pronunciation, running counter to everything I've ever been taught about phonetics! Unless I'm forgetting a part of the book where his name is rhymed with something else. And I'm pretty sure I'm not. St. John Rivers isn't exactly the type of character who has rhymes written about him by his fellow characters.

Anyway. . . Be careful around those British people. With mismatched spellings and pronunciations like those, they've gotta be crazy. (Or at least mildly cruel, laying traps of this sort.) ;o)

Plodding Along

ETA: Ha! I just lost the first half of my post!! Exceedingly annoying. Blogger, I will have vengeance! ;o) Now I have to re-write some of it. . .

Here are a few things that have been happening around here lately:

1. Monday night, we noticed that our A/C wasn't cooling properly. Instead of going down, the temperature was going up-- and no, we hadn't accidentally set it to "heat". ;o) We shut it off, opened some windows, and went to bed thinking we'd have to call a repair man the next day.

The next morning, after clearing some "overnight giant" weeds from the slope (where the A/C is located), we decided to give it one last try. It seemed to be working, and it hasn't given us any problems since then! I don't know how long it'll last, but I'll happily postpone calling a repair man as long as possible. ;o)

2. At about the same time, our walk-behind mower started giving us trouble.

First off, it wasn't going as fast as it should. Donald decided it was because some cord/line had gone a bit limp, and without the proper tension the motor didn't "know" it was supposed to be going full speed. (I think. . . )

After he spent some time looking at it (trying to see if he could tighten the cord), it didn't want to start at all. He thought it might be flooded or something from having been on its side, so he gave it a rest, but the next time we tried to get it started, the pull-start cord came loose entirely! Donald was able to reattach it, but I don't think she'll ever be the same again. ;o) Or he. . . It's a Toro, after all.

Anyway, we may be able to get it going again, but we think this might be a sign that it's time to go ahead and get a new lawn mower. We've been intending to buy a riding mower sooner or later, anyway. With a lawn as big as ours, it would make the chore of keeping it "groomed" so much easier.

So-- now begins the task of comparison shopping! Yee-haw! ;o)

3. Molly's back took a turn for the worse a few days ago, when she lost a small patch of hair around the sore spots. Now it looks like it might be improving. I hesitate to type it, for fear that she'll suddenly go totally bald ;o), but the sort spots don't look as irritated, at the moment. . . For now, I'm just keeping an eye on it and planning to try out some shampoo I'm borrowing from Mom tomorrow. Do you hear that, Molly? You're getting a bath soon! (g)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More B&W techniques

I've been playing around with converting another photo to black and white. This time, I chose a photo of Skipper, my maternal grandparents' Eskie.

Note: You can click on any photo to see it bigger. They all look better that way, I think.

For curiosity's sake, here's the original photo:

I gave the complicated technique I wrote about in my last post one more try:

I was disappointed with how things went in the last step or two of that technique, so I went back and dodged (lightened) his eyes a bit and softened the graininess. I think the results are more pleasing this way:

I also put poor Skipper through yet another technique for transforming color digital photos into B&W. This one uses some functions I haven't tried before, such as the Lab Color mode and the Highpass filter. The author suggests using this method for cityscapes, dramatic scenes, and street photography / photojournalism. Skipper doesn't really fit into any of those categories, but I don't really "do" cityscapes, etc., so I didn't have much to choose from. (g) Anyway, here's the finished photo:

For one final b&w comparison, I put the photo through a simple technique. Convert mode to Grayscale, then apply curves (make whites whiter, blacks blacker-- basically the same kind of curve you see in the tutorial linked above).

And just for fun, I took the image above and changed the mode to Duotone to achieve a sepia effect. I also used the dodge tool to lighten the eyes, which tended to get too dark, in my opinion.

I'm still not sure which black-and-white technique I prefer. . . I'll have to look at them all at the same time to decide. And even then, it probably depends a lot on the particular photo in question.

Who would've thought that "simple" black and white could be be so complicated? ;o)

B&W Three Ways

GoogleReader suggested a blog full of Photoshop tutorials, so I decided to give one of them a try after lunch.

The first tutorial that caught my attention teaches a different way to convert a regular color digital photo into an "old-fashioned" black and white photo that's supposed to look more like a print from film. It's definitely more time-consuming. I'm not sure yet whether or not I think it's worth the extra effort. . .

Here's the same photo with three different B&W treatments. (You can click them to see them bigger.)

First, here's the easy way. Just go to Image > Mode. Select "Grayscale". If it's not quite dark or bright enough for you, a quick fix with Curves fixes that. (I lightened this one a little.) As quick as that, you're done.

The more involved method (which I won't describe here, since you can get it at the link provided above) yields something like this:

It seems to have left behind some color. The grass looks a little green, still, and I'm not sure I like it. . . I used a little less grain than they call for, because it made the grass look "snowy", in this photo.

Finally, I did a little "combo". I don't even remember what all I did. I started with the basic grayscale, but then I played around with a couple of other things, including adding graininess.

Looking at all three of them at the same time, I think I may like the easiest one the best. (g) Maybe this is one of those techniques that works better on some photos than others. Or maybe I just don't know what old-fashioned B&W film prints are supposed to look like. . .

Any opinions?

P.S. The dog in the photo is Kolby, one of my family's Shelties. I think Donald may have taken this one. . .

Fabric Designs

I read this morning about a place that prints fabric with patterns of your own design. The cost is prohibitive, of course. It's supposed to get cheaper with time, but I have a feeling that their idea of cheaper is my idea of no-way-not-happening. ;o) Still, it's pretty neat that the option is even out there.

So then I started looking around at the fabric pattern designs people have posted on Flickr. I'm loving the retro patterns, especially, but I can't help wondering how long those retro looks will be "Oh, cool! It's so retro! This is exactly like the wallpaper I remember from my grandma's 50's-era kitchen!" and transform back into "Ugh! I hate those colors! They're so out-dated! They look. . . old!"

Nothing so fickle as fashion, right?

This was pointless, but oh well. (g)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happiness (this evening) is. . .

Happiness (this evening) is. . .
  • A Molly-dog jumping two or three feet into the air to pop soap bubbles.
  • Red beans and rice simmering on the stove, wafting a pleasantly spicy aroma my direction.
  • The soft glow of a summer evening lighting up the house from every window. (No electricity necessary.)
  • A/C and ceiling fans keeping the house at a comfortable 81 degrees.
  • Freshly-washed dishes dripping dry by the kitchen sink.
  • The familiar whistled melody of The Andy Griffith Show on the television.
  • Leisurely adding to my grocery list (with visions of yummy Santa Fe Stew dancing through my head).
  • Looking forward to supper with a companionable companion.
Ah. . . :o)


And now I shall treat you to grumpiness, followed by a petulant outburst.
Please do us all a favor and skip this one. ;o)

It's amazing how a pretty decent mood can be ruined with just one or two little things. (sigh)

One of the "little things" is so little that it's not even worth mentioning-- especially since the "perpetrator" may happen to read this. Unlikely, but you never know. Besides, like I said, it's a little thing.

The other is a not-so-little thing-- a political thing-- some weird thing I just happened across that suggests that because of our nation's fiscal irresponsibility, the country could "go into foreclosure". Now, I'm not saying that I think that's actually going to happen, but my defenses were already down, and it managed to put a damper on my mood.

Politicians! Bloggers (in general)!
Stupid people in a stupid world, squabbling over idiotic nonsense.
Why can't they all be perfect, like me? ;o)

Ok, I'm feeling a little better, after that. (g)
Now just a little dish washing to seal the deal. . . ;o)

Give Me Five

I woke up early this morning, couldn't get back to sleep, and now have a little time to waste-- er, spare. ;o) So how about a meme?

This week's Give Me Five theme is "Give me five ways to fit exercise into your life."

The gist seems to be particularly "little things" or even "tricks" that we can do-- so "park further out in the parking lot and walk" or "take the stairs" vs. "run five miles a day". Because let's be honest. That last one's just not going to happen. (I hate running long distances. Sprinting, ok, but I'm not really a marathon-running type girl.)
  1. If you have pets, young kids, or pets/kids you can "borrow" for half an hour or so, take them out in the yard-- or to the nearest park-- and play with them. Maybe their energy will inspire you to keep moving just a little bit longer.
  2. If you sit at a desk all day, try putting something you need on a fairly regular basis (wastebasket, telephone, filing cabinet, etc.) further away from you so that you have to get up and move a little when you need it. (Of course, the boss might not like this idea if it keeps you from answering the phone promptly. (g))
  3. If you enjoy watching TV, try doing some exercise during your favorite program(s) every week. Run on a treadmill, jog in place, lift small weights, etc.
  4. Here's another one for us TV addicts. ;o) Make it a "rule" that whenever a commercial comes on, you have to do some little exercise or series of exercises. Maybe decide that you "have" to get up and clean the room until the commercials end.
  5. Grow a lawn-- or a flower garden-- or a vegetable garden. Keeping it mown, weeded, and otherwise maintained provides weekly exercise-- especially if you're more diligent than I am. (g) Of course, if time is already an issue, this may not be such a great idea. In that case, and alternative #5 might be putting on some music with a good beat and "speed-cleaning" when you do daily chores. Can you beat your previous record of sweeping the floor in 3 minutes flat? ;o)
Unfortunately, I have a feeling that these little things may not be quite enough of a cardiac workout to take the place of the regular aerobic exercise we're all supposed to be doing. (Well, unless you run with the dog or kids. . . or if you work up a good sweat biking or jogging in front of the TV set. ) However, even little things like adding a few extra steps between the computer and the telephone add up and help.

Well, it's time to go get the day started! :o)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Our Fourth

We spent our Fourth of July afternoon at my parents' house.

Carrie and Victor had driven down for a visit, Mom and Dad had prepared a tasty meal of grilled burgers and sausage dogs-- with homemade Butterfinger ice cream for dessert! We watched a little of some old home videos (converted to digital), gave Carrie her birthday gifts (the actual day was a week or so ago), played a couple of card games ("Seven" and "Crazy Eights"), watched Kolby and Mandy demonstrate their ability to "wait" (not take treats placed on their feet until they get the signal that it's ok)-- and just generally visited.

Afterward, most of us drove into town to watch the fireworks display. (Donald took some photos of the fireworks. I may upload some of those, later. As of now, they're still sitting in the camera, and I'm too lazy/sleepy to deal with them, yet.)

It was a very pleasant way to spend the holiday-- and we didn't even have thunderstorms! (Lately, thunder has been a daily occurrence, so the quiet was a nice change of pace.)

And now there's a whole weekend left still left to enjoy! :o)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

This just in. . .

I'm now getting all my blog fodder from talk radio. ;o)

Ok, not really-- but here's something I heard on the radio today. . .

From The Onion-- Entertainment Scientists Warn Miley Cyrus Will Be Depleted by 2013.

Don't say we didn't warn you. ;o)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

How offensive is that doggie in the window?

Edited to fix a few errors. I get sloppy when I'm angry. (g)

Listening to talk radio while cleaning the kitchen. Heard Boortz talking about a story from the Daily Mail.

Here's the gist:

Somewhere in Scotland, the police sent out postcards advertising the force's new telephone number for non-emergency calls. To make it a little more eye-catching than a boring block of text, they added a cute picture of a puppy and a police officer's hat. Now, some Muslims are complaining about the cards.

You may well wonder why they objected. Could there be some subtle anti-Islamic message hidden in the text? Some forbidden numeric combination (their equivalent of the dreaded triple "6") in the telephone number? No. The problem was the adorable little puppy! Apparently, they consider dogs to be "unclean".

I must've missed that one, somehow. I mean, I knew "The Three Little Pigs" was out. I'd heard that if you drew a cartoon of their prophet, you were toast. Oh, and supposedly a riot in Bangladesh started because the Thom McAn shoe logo resembles the word "Allah". Nike's logo also drew criticism, for the same reason. So no shoes from Nike or Thom McAn, either.

But puppies?!

I'm sorry if it sounds intolerant (Excuse me while I gag over the word!), but I must think less of any religion that belittles dogs, some of mankind's finest allies here on earth. The faithfulness and selflessness that dogs so often exhibit must be pleasing to God. I'm sure of it.

I'm sick of this type of garbage. Look, people-- just take a pair of scissors and cut away the part with the dog, if it's that troubling to you. Or paste a lovely shot of a camel over the puppy. If you're going to live in a Western society, where dogs are generally valued (if not outright loved), you're going to have to learn to live with little annoyances of this kind.

I imagine that most people realize this and wouldn't think of causing a fuss over something so trivial. But those who haven't yet come to terms with the fact that Western culture is not the same as Islamic culture-- and that we don't have to tip-toe around things like photos of nasty little puppy dogs-- those people need to just SHUT UP and get over it.

Oh, I'm sorry. Was that offensive?

Here's a little "present" for you. . .

Surprised Molly-dog ;o)

. . . Molly says "BOO!"

If you find this kind of story interesting, check out this blog.

I saw it on the news. . .

I saw it on the news this morning, so I figured the big story must've finally broken. ;o) I'm talking about the weird new milk jugs we've been getting from our local Sam's Club, of course.

(You may have forgotten, but I've written about the new milk jug design before. See, I'm weeks ahead of the New York Times!)

I have a feeling the story is available elsewhere, but this article in the NYT was the first place I found it online, thanks to good old Google.

The article makes it clear that we aren't the only ones to have had trouble with the jug design, but it also suggests that if you "tilt and pour"-- pivoting the jug on the tabletop-- you won't spill. Maybe we just aren't careful enough, but we still (sometimes) get those annoying tiny dribbles. If memory serves, it's easier to pour without spilling once the jug isn't quite so full. . . Anyway, if it weren't for the savings, I'd gladly continue buying milk in the good old-fashioned jugs. They just work better. But so long as the weirdo jugs are cheaper, that's what we'll be buying. And if this article is correct, the odd-ball jugs may become more and more difficult to avoid, even if you're willing to pay more for the old design.

At least the article (and the news story I saw on TV) explains why some companies have made this change. The new jugs stack more efficiently (without using milk crates, which have to be washed), so that fewer shipments are required. Fewer shipments saves money-- fuel, time, etc.

Donald suggested that they should switch to the Swedish milk carton, which is also rectangular (and therefore easily stackable), but which folds out to form more of a spout and is easier to pour. (If I'm not mistaken-- and I may be-- this type of carton is also called a "Tetra Brik".)

I think I have photos of them in my Flickr photostream. . . Yes, here they are!

Here's a basic carton, opened:


And here's the carton of "fil" in action:


I countered that because the Swedish carton is so small (1 liter instead of the gallon jugs we're used to), they'd either have to make the cartons larger (probably impractical for handling) or people'd have to buy more of them at a time-- which would equal more packaging, less savings.

He reminded me that milk cartons are (mostly) cardboard.

Hm. I imagine the cartons would have less of an environmental impact than plastic jugs, but I don't know if 3 or 4 1-liter cardboard cartons would weigh less than the jugs, so the shipping would still be less efficient. . . The jugs also have the benefit of a screw-on lid, which (I guess) makes the milk stay fresh longer. . .

Anyway, I doubt we're headed the way of cartons, here in the US. Not quite yet, anyway. We'll simply continue to make do with the "JUST TILT & POUR" jug.