Thursday, January 29, 2009

Computers, Trixie's "Fixed", & Quilting

It's been a while since I've written. ("No! Really?!") I wrote a fairly lengthy entry, last week, but before finishing it, I decided that it wasn't worth publishing. It was about "giving" versus "giving back"-- primarily about the irritating semantics of the latter-- and it probably made me sound like a big old meanie. So I'm leaving it locked up with a handful of other unfinished blog entries that will never see the light of day.

Anyway. . . With that entry tossed aside, I'm starting from scratch, and I'm not too sure that I have much worth reporting, but I'll scrape together a few odds and ends (that is the name of the blog, after all), and you'll have something new to read here, at least. ;o)

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Donald's been home nine days, now, and we've gotten back into our usual routines. (It's amazing how quickly things fall right back into place, isn't it?) He brought home lots of digital copies of old family photos-- plus some new photos and videos taken during his time in Sweden. One of these days, I'll edit and upload some of those, as I know that at least a few of you would be interested. I'll probably wait until the issue in the next "section" is resolved, though, as I'm lazy about transferring files from one computer to another. (Plus the colors are "off" on this monitor, compared to the other... Oh, gee, whatever could the next section be about? I wonder...)

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For the past couple of days, we have been unable to access the Internet on our "main computer"-- i.e. the real computer with the nice monitor, a.k.a. the one that we use 99% of the time. I can't complain too much, since the laptop is still able to connect to the Internet, but it is a bit awkward. I don't like having to adjust to the different keyboard, and it's not as fast (in some ways), and not all of the files and programs I want are on this computer, etc., etc.. wah wah wah. ;o)

Whether I'm being a whiny baby or not, we do need to figure out the problem, sooner or later. And by "we", what I really mean is Donald, of course. (g) Not that I'm unwilling to help, but I'm afraid I'd only make matters worse if I started fiddling with it too much. (I'm pretty good with computers, until they stop working properly. :oP)

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We had Trixie spayed today. (We weren't planning to breed her, so the sooner the better. She just turned 7 months old a few days ago.) We've already heard from the veterinarian that the surgery went fine, and she came out of anesthesia as expected, which was a relief to hear. She may be "just a dog", but she's our dog, and I was a little worried about her. They're keeping her until tomorrow (standard procedure). (She also got her final round of shots. From now on, she'll just need the regular annual shots.)

The house is certainly quieter without her in it. No puppy kisses or "Oh, I'm sooo happy to see you!!" greetings, though, so it's not really a good trade.

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I finished snipping my rag quilt, and I finally got around to washing and drying it. It was (as predicted) quite a messy process, with all that lint and loose thread. If you like, you can read more about it (in very great detail (g)), on my sewing blog. There are also a few photos of the finished, raggedy quilt on my Flickr photostream.

Oh, I'll go ahead and put one of them here, too:

Denim Rag Quilt

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After finishing sewing that first rag quilt, I promptly began dreaming about my next one. I was literally having my dreams invaded with quilt patterns and flannel combinations and so on. Clearly, it was time to start working on another one. ;o) Fortunately, I've been saving old jeans for months (and thankfully accepting cast-off jeans from family members on both sides of the Atlantic (g))-- and I have a stash of flannel (mostly bought at Jo-Ann Fabrics for 99 cents a yard during the 2007 day-after-Thanksgiving sale). It was just a matter of drawing up a new design!

I've cut the denim I'll need for my next project, and now I'm just trying to decide what combination of flannels to use this time. This second lap quilt is going to be squares "on point"-- maybe a little trickier than the simple pattern of rows and columns of squares that I used for my first quilt. We'll see how it goes. . . I'm still not sure whether I'll leave the edges "jaggedy" or fill in the gaps with triangles. I was thinking I'd fill them in with triangles, but now I'm reading about the bias issue, and it sounds like making those triangles is slightly more complicated than I'd thought. I think I understand how to make my triangles so that the bias cut won't be on the edge of the quilt. It'll just involve a little extra cutting and sewing. I wonder if that would really matter on a rag quilt, anyway. . . And should I hide my seams (each of the triangles would have one through its middle) or expose and rag those like all the other seams? (I doubt it matters, beyond aesthetics.) Well, better to take a little extra time and trouble than ruin the whole thing, I guess.

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Hm. That'll have to do for this time. Dishes need washing.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Donald's Coming Home!!, &tc.

I'm a bundle of nerves, today, mainly because Donald's flying home from Sweden, and I just can't make myself really believe that he's safer in those planes than behind the wheel of a car. He's still on the transatlantic leg of his journey-- by far the worst part of the trip, at over ten hours of tedium. I'll breathe a little easier when that flight's safely landed, but then there's still one more flight to go. My stomach gets tied up in knots over airplanes...

I've been able to track Donald's flights on the airline's website-- whether they've been delayed and why, exactly when they depart and arrive-- that sort of thing. Thanks to that nifty feature, I saw that his transatlantic flight (the other way over) was "delayed due to accommodating passengers", though I wasn't exactly certain what that meant. It sounded a little ominous to me, but fortunately it wasn't a very long delay, and they actually landed in Amsterdam a bit ahead of schedule.

When I spoke to him the next day (after he finally reached his parents' home), he explained that, as he understood it, a few people had smuggled alcohol aboard the plane and were kicked off the flight, and the delay was due to finding and removing their luggage. Pretty weird! On that same flight, someone came in over the intercom asking for anyone with medical knowledge to go to the back of the plane! (I'm glad I wasn't on that flight!)

Over the weekend (and yesterday), I gave my parents and maternal grandparents a little help planting pine seedlings (saplings? not sure what the difference is...) on the property where they'll eventually be building. The trees are tiny, but this type (slash pine) usually grow amazingly fast.

Trixie is systematically attacking every bit of "decor" around the yard. She finds things that I haven't noticed in months (if not years)-- and then proceeds to destroy them. Her latest acquisitions: a plastic, bird-shaped garden stake (the type with the wings that twirl in the wind) and a metal, dolphin-shaped medallion attached to some wind chimes (the weight/wind-catcher part). I'm thinking she focused on these because it's been so windy the past few days, but she's previously directed her attentions toward harmless, non-moving, non-noise-making items. She's a terror to lawn ornaments, that dog.

One of my parents' Shelties, Mandy, had a run-in with a skunk, last night. (The crazy thing-- the skunk, not the dog ;o)-- even chased her right up to the steps of the house!) Before anyone knew that she'd been sprayed, she was taken to a bathroom, and though she was only inside for a few minutes, Mom's had a job getting the smell out of the house. And of course poor Mandy will have to undergo some destinkification processes, too. In the meantime, she has to stay in an out-building (shed/barn). What a lot of trouble from a chance encounter with the dreaded "polecat"!

I started cutting squares for a denim rag quilt back in November 2007. Rag quilts are just about the simplest quilt you can make, I guess, and yet it has taken me a bit over a year to finally finish my first one! (And it's still not technically finished, since I have lots of snipping to do-- not to mention putting it through the wash a couple of times to get it really raggedy.)

In my defense, once I started sewing at it in earnest, it didn't take me long to do. I ran into a problem-- a broken needle on my sewing machine-- early in the project (probably back in 2007). After that, I set it aside and was hesitant to pick it back up again, wondering if my machine (and I) could handle all those layers of fabric. It turns out I needn't have worried, though. I went through the rest of the project without breaking any needles.

All in all, the process went very smoothly. It's certainly not the work of an expert. There are many places where the blocks don't line up perfectly-- and I got careless (tired?) at the end, so the final seam around the whole quilt is not a uniform distance from the edge of the fabric-- but I told myself at the time that it's supposed to look somewhat haphazard-- and it'll definitely work as a lap quilt, despite cosmetic flaws. I'm satisfied, and since I'm the one who'll be using it, that's good enough.

Here's the quilt, pre-snipping and not yet thoroughly "ragged":

I'll have to photograph the back, too. I went to a fair deal of trouble making sure my three colors of flannel backing fell into a specific pattern. It's nothing fancy-- just diagonal lines-- but still, after putting in the effort, I want people to notice it. ;o) I thought it would show more from the front (in the exposed seams), and maybe it will, once it's ragged out. Right now, though, it looks pretty random.

Anyway-- that's one craft project nearly completed! Soon I can move on to another sewing project, and with the knowledge that I can finish sewing a quilt, even if it takes me more than a year.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two Things from a Conservative Perspective

Read at your own risk.
Liberals (and some conservatives) may not like what I have to say.
I certainly don't mind (in fact, I won't even know about it (g)) if you blow me a raspberry right now and run back to the safety of the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post, instead. ;o)

*** *** ***

Thing One,
or "OMG, Pelosi Rickroll'd Me":

First, if you have no idea what on earth I'm talking about, let me briefly explain:

Apparently, it was considered amusing for a while to present people with a link purporting to take them to something they might find useful or interesting. However, because you were one hip and happenin' guy (or gal), you'd fix it so that the link actually sent them to a video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up". Much hilarity would ensue, of the "Aw, dude! You totally just Rickroll'd me!" variety.

I know.
Don't ask me why. For the same reason that people now think it's fun to constantly label things as either an "epic win" or an "epic fail", I guess. Personally, I don't really get it, but then again, I still have a hard time bringing myself to say or write that something is "cool" without quotation marks, because that was the "cool" thing to do when I was a kid, and it always felt so incredibly fake to me. It might not be fake for some people-- and that's fine-- but for me to say "cool" feels completely unnatural. No, I think things are "neat", but very rarely are they ever "cool". Most likely, it's because I was born an old fuddy-duddy. Fortunately, I have learned to embrace my fuddy-duddiness.

Oh, who am I kidding? I love being an old fuddy-duddy! Woo-hoo! Fuddy-duddies rule, man! (g)

If you're curious about the history of this bizarre practice (the "Rickrolling" thing, I mean, not my strange inability to use current slang without sarcasm), I point you to the Wikipedia entry. (Say what you will of the unreliability of information found on Wikipedia, but for something of this sort, it's pretty much getting it straight from the horse's mouth!)

So, anyway, evidently Pelosi suggests (somewhere out there on the WWW) that people follow a particular link, which leads to this YouTube video. (If you can just get through the first few seconds, the most offensive thing you'll see is a cat investigating a gavel and Rick Astley doing a fairly dorky-looking dance.)

I'll admit that I had no idea what Rickrolling was, so after I watched the video, I had to go "look it up". After that, my first thoughts were these:

1. I'd be willing to bet that Nancy Pelosi had almost nothing to do with making this video. In fact, I doubt she knew what Rickrolling was, either, until one of her "cool" staffers explained it to her (and frankly, maybe not even after that).

2. If a Republican had done this, (more) people would be complaining that it was a waste of time and resources, given the state of the world today. (Point of interest: When someone talks about "the state of the world today", they are always implying that said state is more-or-less crappy. It's amazing that the world's still around, given how long it's been in such a "state".) Also, Republicans are strictly forbidden from being "cool". It's written in the Constitution, somewhere.

Then I read a comment (on this page) that sums it up pretty well:

Okay, y’know how when you came across some super-cool fad when you were a teenager, and then your parents thought it was cool too and started doing it, and then you realized how super-UNcool the fad really was…?


*** *** ***

Thing Two,
or "National Turn-Off-the-TV Day, But
For Reals This Time":

I'm looking forward to January 20th, but I solemnly swear that it has absolutely nothing to do with The Biggest Event in the History of the United States WORLD (a.k.a. Obama's inauguration). Speaking of which, have you heard that ABC will devote that entire day to Obama coverage? (At least they're giving us fair warning. Fortunately, I'll have something better to do that day.) The other major broadcast networks are also devoting most of the day to inaugural coverage, though apparently not quite the whole day. (How dare they show anything else, really?)

The promotion ABC is running mentions that we're in for a real treat that evening-- we get to see the Obamas' first dance as President and First Lady! (*Gag*) Oh, come on! Ok, so the prince is having a ball (or ten). I'm sure that's nice for him and his friends, but why should I want to sit at home and watch him party? What is this-- an important political event or Dancing with the Stars? I never have understood the way some people idolize others.

Look, I know it's historical and many people are excited, but does it really deserve this big an increase in attention over past inaugurations? Predictably, much of the media is going overboard on this one. Actually, "going overboard" isn't strong enough. They're tying concrete blocks to their feet and planning to take up residence in Atlantis. Yep, and that's likely where they'll be broadcasting from for some time to come.

Of course, these are just my opinions. ;o)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Keeping in practice. . .

Time to write another post, if only to keep in the habit.

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Until this week, we had been having exceptionally mild weather with brief cold snaps, this season, but the local TV meteorologists are telling us that that's over (for a while, at least). It's certainly chilly, now. In fact, later on I need to go bundle up the few remaining bits of exposed pipe outside. I'm going to wait until I take the dogs in for a while, though. I hope that if Trixie doesn't see me messing with the various spigots around the yard, she'll be slower to notice and mess with them. A vain hope, perhaps, seeing as she's already developed a fascination with at least one of them.

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Yesterday evening, I watched the 1998 film adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles (the version with Justine Waddell as "Tess".) Having read the book before, I should've known better. The "dairy" segment of the film was beautiful (such lighting!), but the general trend of the story was much as I had remembered-- only worse. (I had forgotten precisely how it ended, so the last fifteen or twenty minutes were all but new to me.) Well, if nothing else, Thomas Hardy's depressing tales make me realize what a bed of roses my own life has been. . .

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Today I cleaned out the "deep freezer" (aka "chest freezer"). It's not exactly an exhilarating job, what with fingers cold from removing ice and the race against potentially defrosting food, but it needed doing. Now I have a mental inventory of exactly what's in there, and I can definitively state that we needn't buy chicken for at least a month-- possibly two. Nor are we lacking for bread. I'm sure you will rest easier tonight, knowing that. ;o)

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This strange story has been big in the local news for the past few days. It appears that an Indiana man (whose life was evidently falling apart) made a fake distress call from his small plane, parachuted to safety, and deliberately left his plane flying on autopilot, to fall wherever it may. It ended up in a residential area of Milton, FL-- but fortunately it didn't crash into a home. If it turns out that this guy did do this intentionally, he deserves to go straight to jail, and he ought to be on his knees thanking God that he didn't kill anyone with his abandoned toy.

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Looking through the local story linked above, I can't help but wonder why so many journalists (of all people) don't know the basic rules of punctuation-- like, you know, where commas do and do not belong in a sentence.

If you're a butcher, a baker, or a candlestick-maker, I don't really expect you to know (or particularly care) about the language, beyond the bare minimum you need to get by in life. Ok, I'm going to go all school-teachery on you and point out that maybe you ought to care a little, if only because sooner or later you'll have to write something, and your (in)ability to do so with clarity affects how people perceive you. But even if a butcher writes "Spare Rib's - Buy 1 Get One Have Off", at least it doesn't affect his ability to cut, package, and sell meat (though he may lose some business if people don't understand his signage). In other words, it's not specifically part of his job description, so we tend to overlook his goofs. A journalist, on the other hand, really ought to make a point of learning how the language works. (Why, for instance, does that article start with "but"? It feels like we were late getting to the website, and we missed the first part of the story!)

Anyway. . . I guess I should be used to it by now, but come on! Please, folks, at least cut back on the randomly placed commas. You're embarrassing me! People are going to think we're all uneducated hicks, down here, and it's simply not true.

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Well, that should be enough to keep the old digits from forgetting where all the letters are on the keyboard. ;o)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sweden, circa 1890

Flickr Blog has a bit today about "Norway, Sweden, and Denmark-- then and now". The main purpose of the entry is to announce that the Library of Congress has added 169 photochroms of (you guessed it) Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to their collection at Flickr.

I'll definitely be giving them a good look-through. They're very crisp, colorful images, considering they were made around 1890!

Edited to add:
Hm. Not many of them were of Sweden, and the few that were seemed to focus on Stockholm. Well, not too surprising, I guess. Fjords, mountains, waterfalls and glaciers are hard to beat, from a photographer's perspective.

Monday, January 5, 2009


(That's the proper name for a group of pelicans, or so Donald informed me. (g))

We spied a group of birds overhead, Sunday afternoon, and hurried for the camera and camcorder. The video's a little shaky, because I had to zoom in so much and, well, because I'm just not that steady-handed with the camcorder. . . Anyway, here's the video, such as it is:

As the title implies, we think they were pelicans-- American White Pelicans, specifically, some of which winter along the Gulf Coast. They can be fairly hefty-- up to 19 pounds with a wingspan of 95-120 inches (240-300 cm).

It's nice to see some large birds other than vultures. ;o) We occasionally see a hawk that must live in the area, but usually it's too skittish to hang around long enough to be photographed.

Edited to add:
It is possible to see a larger version of all these embedded videos. The last few I've uploaded are available in full size on my Flickr photostream. (Maybe my Flickr contacts all hate me now. (g) When Flickr first announced that they'd be hosting video as well as photos, many people were very upset. I'm still not sure what all the fuss was about. Guess they didn't want it to turn into another YouTube, but of course it hasn't. It's just convenient for those of us who have all our photos there and are familiar with the system. Anyway. . .)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Video of Mandy and Kolby

Last one for the day, I promise. ;o)

Video of Mandy

Ok, the embedded video from Flickr seems to be working now! :o)

Here's another quick one of Mandy. Donald filmed this on Christmas Eve at my parents' place. I snipped it and added some music ("Lassie" by the Ainbusk Singers, a Swedish group). The bit of Kolby and the frisbee at the very end wasn't there the last time I previewed (before rendering). I must've accidentally moved it there.

Video of Wind on the Pond

Filmed a week or so ago.

May this video be a lesson to me to *hold the camcorder still for more than two seconds at a time*. ;o) This would've been much nicer if I'd just stayed focused on one spot of water, rather than constantly zooming out and panning.

Well, I'm learning. It's taking a while, but I'm learning. . .

P.S. This embedded video (hosted at Flickr) isn't working for me, though it works fine over at Flickr. If you're having trouble viewing it here, too, please leave a quick comment. If this is going to be a problem, I may have to stick with Vimeo or one of the other sites available. . .

Happy New Year!

Here's to the beginning of another year!

Granny L. hosted a New Year's Day lunch, yesterday. Among other things, there were the traditional black-eyed peas for good luck and turnip greens (I think) for prosperity. Neither of us had any turnips, so I guess we'll be pinching pennies this year. ;o)

Donald also did a little shopping yesterday, in preparation for his up-coming trip to Sweden. This time, he's going on his own, and I'm fighting off fears for his safety. Logically, I know that, statistically speaking, he's probably safer on a plane than on the busy interstate, but it still doesn't feel that way. I'll breathe a sigh of relief when he's done with flying for a while. (Guess it's a good thing I didn't marry a pilot!)

I think this will be the first time I've ever spent a whole night completely alone (except for the dogs, of course). I'm planning to carefully avoid creepy TV, movies, books, and music while Donald's away, so I'll be less likely to scare myself. Having family just a few minutes away should help alleviate some of my nerves, too. Still, I'm going to whip up a curtain for our kitchen door window so that I won't have to feel like someone's potentially peeping at me from outside. . . (shudder)