Thursday, December 30, 2010

As I Edit Christmas Photos...

Oh my.

I was just going through some of the photos we took on/around Christmas... (So that maybe one of these days I'll be able to go through the ones I took all the way back in the middle of November...) There are a few hilarious ones mixed in there, but I'm afraid I won't be sharing those.  Some of us probably wouldn't appreciate having them released onto the Internet.  (g)  Still, I get to laugh at them all I want, and I will e-mail them to the persons involved, so that they can also laugh at our own expense.

Note for future reference:  Jumping into the air for a group photo can yield some crazy results.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Random Thoughts

•  After letting the floors go for a while, I spent a good amount of time vacuuming today.  (It took forever, so let this be a lesson to me not to wait so long, next time.) I'm still in awe of how well our (no longer so) new vacuum cleaner works, compared with the old one. 

•  I love the Trixie-dog, but if you have a problem with long white dog hairs getting on everything (making it nearly impossible to get out the door without at least one hair lurking somewhere on your clothes, even if you're very careful), the Eskie probably isn't the breed for you.  Neither she nor her hair have a doggy smell, but you will get unscented dog hair on your clothes, if you come into our house for any length of time.  No amount of vacuuming will ever eliminate all that fur.  It's just a fact of life with American Eskimo Dogs.  (You have been warned.)

•  Thanks to gifts and my own purchases, I have enough hand lotion to last an average woman a few years, figuring for moderate use.  And yet I keep noticing that my hands look dry, thinking to myself, "I ought to put on some lotion"-- and then getting distracted by something else and promptly forgetting all about it.  Apparently I need to wear a bottle on a cord around my neck.  It may be the only way I'll ever remember to use it...

•  I saw someone blog about how she's thinking of doing Project 365 again in 2011, with an emphasis on macro photography this time-- and I thought, "Hey, that sounds like a fun idea!"  That's right.  I am tempted to do Project 365 again.  This is probably a bad idea.

•  The last time I made Santa Fe Stew, I made it vegetarian (by omitting the chicken).  I did this because I was feeling lazy and didn't want to bother with the chicken-- and because I didn't think it would affect the stew much, since I typically use less meat than the recipe calls for, anyway.  (I did add a couple bouillon cubes, though, to supply a little chicken flavor... and I also used quite a bit more beans than the recipe calls for, so there'd be plenty to freeze for later.  However, I always use more beans than are called for...)  It turned out fine.  This remains one of my favorite dishes.  Donald likes it better over rice (which I also like but don't absolutely require), and I like to eat mine with some tortilla chips on the side. 

•  The clothes dryer is buzzing.  I could pretend not to hear it, but I don't think Molly will take care of it on her own...

•  As predicted, Molly was just lying in her dog bed in the kitchen, seemingly oblivious to the buzzer.  She's better at pretending not to hear than I am. 

•  Movies we've watched recently include the following:  Splice, Vampires Suck, Devil, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (with Rifftrax commentary), and others that fail to come to mind.  (Oh, such as The Legend of the Guardians, which Donald wanted to see because of the quality of the cgi.)

•  TV shows we've been watching together:  Community (just finished Season 1, though we've already seen some of Season 2 as it aired), Monk (we're on Season 3), various sitcoms (Big Bang Theory, The Office, How I Met Your Mother, The Middle, Modern Family, etc.)... and probably some other things I'm forgetting. (We were watching The Walking Dead, too, but of course the first season of that is over now.)

•  Those are all the random thoughts I'll bother you with for now.  But you never know when there may be more.  (That'll give you something to look forward to.)  ;o)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Season's Recap

So, did everyone have a merry Christmas?

On Christmas Eve (the day most of the festivities take place in Sweden) Donald spoke to family over the phone. Then we celebrated with my maternal grandparents (and aunts, uncles, cousins, and the rest of my family) on Christmas Eve night. I remember doing that as a child, too.  Back then, there was excitement with extended family-- then more excitement as we left my grandparents' house and headed home under a starry sky so we could be asleep before Santa showed up.

Christmas is less exciting as an adult than it was as a child (it just can't be helped), but it's still plenty of fun.  I look forward particularly to the game of Dirty Santa, as it's always good for laughs.  This year, Donald ended up with this book (which, I feel bound to add, was the joke portion of a real gift-- so you needn't feel sorry for him).  Don't want to bother clicking that link?  Well, here's a picture (that I shamelessly snagged off the 'net) of the cover:

Go ahead; admit it: you're jealous!  ;o)
Actually, I think this might be readable.  It looked like an interesting mix of funny, informative, and bizarre, at first glance. 

Our jokey gift this year (as we tend to do one straightforward gift and one that we hope is a little unusual or humorous) was a few little bags of candy/treats, ten walnuts, and a nutcracker.  For a goal price of $10, that seems like an awfully mean, cheap gift, does it not?  Fortunately, these were not ordinary walnuts, but the fruits of the legendary (some would say imaginary) money tree.  ;o)  Crack one open and find no nut, but a dollar bill!  I found the idea online and thought it sounded like fun.  There's no way I would've been able to execute it on my own, though, as I found breaking the nuts neatly nearly impossible.  Donald was a whiz at it, though, and then it was just a matter of removing the nut, folding up a dollar bill, sticking it in one half of the shell, and gluing the two halves back together.  (That part was easy.)

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon with just my immediate family. It was a wet, chilly, and very windy day outdoors (no flurries, though)-- which always makes it feel that much cozier inside. This is the first Christmas Day that I can remember us not visiting the grandparents on one side of the family or the other for lunch and the afternoon, which felt a little off-kilter, but I think we all had fun.  (Donald and I received some gifts we're really looking forward to trying out/reading/etc.  Thank you again, everyone!)

One of these days soon we'll be going to my paternal grandparents' home to celebrate with that side of the family.  (It was postponed a little so that Aunt Hilary's family could have a Christmas morning at home for a change.) 

In the meantime, I still have one more Christmas gift to work on and finish.  (I know; shame on me for not finishing it before Christmas-- but I knew I had more time to get this one done... and I might have finished it last week, if it hadn't been for the "lost day" of our water crisis.)  Honestly, I'm kind of burned out on working on Christmas gifts, at the moment, but I'm sure that once I get back at it, it will recapture my interest.

Oh, and I'm several days behind on posting photos for my 25 Days of Christmas challenge... but now that the twenty-five days are over, there's nothing left to do but catch up.

So, that's my little Christmas recap!
I hope yours was nice, too.  :o)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas (a little ahead of schedule)!

And when you're ripping into those festively wrapped presents this year, keep this in mind:


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Random News Stories (Now With Links!)

Hey, a local news story made it to the "big news" (eyeroll):
"Alabama Town's Failed Pension Is a Warning"
(Of course it would be an extremely negative story, but what else is new?)

And if you want to survive 2012, apparently you need to pack up and move to some "magic" mountain in France.  Sounds like the locals are none too happy about this "sudden deluge of New Age pilgrims"-- but what else are the "pilgrims" supposed to do?  After all, this mountain "was endorsed by aliens as a safe place to survive the demise of civilization".  (It was awfully nice of those aliens to provide their endorsement, wasn't it?  Too bad they couldn't just have done something to prevent the demise of civilization, though.)

P.S.  Can I really be the only one to loathe all these "end of the world" predictions?  They are such a downer, even to those of us who don't believe anyone really knows when the end will come.  So please, world, cease and desist with all this "the end is nigh" stuff.  Don't you have anything better to do?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Water, Water

We have water again!  (And I don't mean puddling all over the utility room floor!)

Donald poked around some.  Mom and Dad came over and looked and gave their in-put.  Donald cut a hole in the drywall, and we found the source of the leak (in a tangle of water pipes).

Long story short, we ended up calling a plumber.  We decided this was one of those times that getting a professional to look at the problem was worth what we might save trying to figure it out on our own.



(Do you see much difference?  No, neither do I, really.  The "after" is a little more organized, though.)

And so, in conclusion, dear Reader ;o), take a moment to appreciate your indoor plumbing and the fact that it is not presently leaking.  And if you've never experienced a pipe leaking behind a wall, consider yourself very lucky.

It didn't cost an arm and a leg to fix the pipe (and some of the surrounding pipes), so that's good... On the other hand, the plumber said that our problems aren't really the fault of the original plumber (even though his work looks awfully messy to me... but I guess I'll withdraw my earlier wish to dropkick him).  Instead, it's probably just our water.  (Lovely.  Maybe water that corrodes metal is actually super-duper healthy for people, though.  There has to be some silver lining here, right?)  He recommends putting a filter out by the pump, so we're going to look into that (and just hope that no other pipes go pop anytime soon).  Also, we're going to leave an easy access panel over this area of the wall in case we ever have problems with any of these pipes in the future.  (The silver lining here is that it's behind the washer and drier, so no-one will even know it's there.)  No more guesswork as far as where those pipes are! 

The End.

If I'm Grumpy Today, This Is Why

There's nothing to put you in the proper Christmas spirit like-- well, what happened was this:

It's Tuesday night, and I'm extra tired-- partly because we got up for a while in the middle of Monday night to observe the lunar eclipse.  It's time for bed, so I let the dogs out for their walk, then go to the kitchen to wash my hands (because I've been handling the dog treats, and yes, I do wash them every time I handle treats because I've heard that dog food and treats can be contaminated with salmonella, and yes, I'm slightly neurotic like that).  Imagine my surprise when I spy a reflection on the floor-- a puddle right in the open pantry doorway.

At first, I think Molly must've had an accident-- though it has been a loooong time since she's done that and the pantry seems like an odd choice, but who am I to judge the appeal of different locations for puddle-making?-- but as I approach the supposed scene of the crime, I see that it is too big to be a mere "accident" puddle. 

Okay.  Molly's vindicated.  Now what?  Well, I have some emergency water stored in there, in emptied and cleaned 2-liter cola bottles.  Maybe one of them has sprung a leak.  *Sigh*  Oh well, better clean it up right away.  So I head for the laundry room, where I store our "doggy towels"-- ideal for mopping up a medium-sized puddle of water. 

*Slop slop slop*

At this point, you may be wondering what's making that slopping sound, and I can't say that I blame you.  Unfortunately for us, it is the sound of me stepping into another, larger puddle-- one approximately the size of the utility/laundry room.  For the second time in only twenty-two days, the entire floor of that room has been flooded.  (That's right, it's been less than a month since our last "adventure" with standing water in the utility room.)

Yay.  Another leak.  This is just what I needed right now.  Yee-haw, etc., etc.

My thoughts begin to run along the lines of "crappity-crappity crap crap CRAP", and so do my spoken words.

Ok, let's switch out of the present tense now, shall we?  Now that the Big Reveal has happened, I'm ready for summary mode.

Donald (hearing evidence of the aforesaid crappity-crappity crap crap CRAP, came to see what had happened, and we quickly began the frustrating process of removing as much water as possible.  This was especially irritating, given that (have I mentioned yet?) we had done the same thing less than a month earlier, but at least it was less of a mess this time, since the room was still in its new, cleaner state after the last clean-up. (Also, Donald figured out that our wet/dry shop-vac does a pretty good job of picking up most of the water, so we didn't end up with a hundred wet towels afterward.)  Still, there were plenty of things to move and dry off... And it's not exactly fun to wonder how much damage the water had done/was doing to the house.  

We also turned off the water (and water heater) and tried to figure out where the water had come from.  The intake on the water heater-- the first place we checked, because that was where we had the last leak--  seemed dry, as did the pan around the water heater's base.  The hose for the washing machine-- also dry.  Basically, everything we could think of as a possible culprit inside the room was a dead end.  Which left the plumbing behind the wall.  There was no visible dampness on the wall, but... well, where else could it be coming from?

(Crappity-crappity crap crap CRAP.)

With all the water removed, we performed a little test.  Donald turned on the water to the house again while I looked to see if any new water seeped under the baseboards and we both listened.  No new water, but yes, we both heard something that sounded suspiciously like water behind the wall.  (CRAP.)

So, now we get to have another little "adventure" in the world of plumbing.  I suppose the final result will be that we'll have to shell out who-knows-how-much to have this mess fixed-- quickly, with any luck.  Meanwhile, we have to haul our water in from the pump, and if it takes more than a day to fix, we'll have to rely on the generosity of family (who are fortunately also our neighbors) for warm showers.  It could've been worse, of course.  The weather today's going to be ok-- and not cold at all, so we won't miss the hot water as much as we might have... And at least it didn't happen on Christmas Eve/Day... And I suppose we found the problem pretty early.  (I guess that if we had gone to bed without seeing it and shutting off the water, it would've leaked all night and flooded even more of the house. ~shudder~)  And in the end, it's only a house repair, so not the worst thing to ever happen to someone in this cruel world-- but still, not just the thing to put one in her best mood right before the holidays, you have to admit. (And now I'm really worried about every *censored* pipe in the house.  And I feel like kicking whoever did our original plumbing right in the you-know-where.  GRR/*sigh*.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ugh, NPR...

NPR's Nina Totenberg apologizes for saying "Christmas".

You can visit the link to watch the video, if you like.  Basically what happened was that this woman was talking about how agencies supposedly don't know how much money they have (because of the failure of the omnibus bill, etc., etc.)-- when she comes out with this:
"And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this."

I don't know, Ms. Totenberg... I think of myself as a forgiving person (well, ok, maybe I'm not actually that good at forgiving, but let's just pretend I am), but you've really crossed a line this time.  You were at a Christmas party??  Ahem! Excuse me, but I feel sure you meant to say you were at a holiday party... or possibly a seasonal or winter-themed party.  But definitely nothing to do with... Christmas.  (Oh, the shame!)

You know, maybe we should just start saying (in hushed tones) "the c-word" when we refer to Christmas... Oh, but oops. There's already a forbidden-in-polite-company "c-word", isn't there?  (Even though I only learned of its existence a few years ago, sheltered as I am.)  Oh well.  We'll have to come up with some other solution.  Can't have people running around saying "Christmas" all the time!

Seriously, though, lady... No-one forced you to refer to a "Christmas party".  Next time just leave the word out altogether, rather than apologizing for it.  This just makes you look dumb.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


While I'm at it-- grumping, that is--  what is the deal with this??

"European Commission criticised for omitting Christmas on EU school diary."

The European Commission has come under fire for producing more than three million copies of an EU diary for secondary schools which contains no reference to Christmas but includes Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Muslim festivities. 
And then further on in the story, this:

A commission spokesman described the diary as a "blunder" and said that in the interests of political correctness there would no references to any religious festivals in future editions.

"We're sorry about it, and we'll correct that in next edition. Religious holidays may not be mentioned at all to avoid any controversy," he said. 

A mere "blunder", eh?  Yeah, sure.


It's unfortunate that some people on some sites (*cough*YOUTUBE*cough*) think that it's okay to "say" things that (I very sincerely hope) they'd never say to someone's face.  What's wrong with people?  *sigh*

It must be sad to be you, random stranger on the Internet...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Merry Busy Christmas-Time

Everyone knows this is a busy time of year, but who am I to break the custom?  ;o)

It's so busy this time of year!

I think I completed the last of my Christmas shopping yesterday, but I've only wrapped one little thing so far... And I still have some serious work to do in the next several days, if I'm going to finish a few hand-made gifts I'd like to have done in time for Christmas.  No matter how much I tell myself that I will start gift-shopping and -making early this year, I never seem to manage it.  Time always ends up being scarce in December... and I don't exchange gifts with that many people! 

I've recently come across a couple of people online who make at least one gift item per month, through the year. For handmade gifts (that you're fairly sure the recipient will still need by the end of the year or won't be able to buy in the meantime... or can use multiples of...), that seems like a very sound plan.  Maybe-- just maybe-- I'll try to adopt that course of action, myself.  I really enjoy making at least some of my gifts myself (even if it's just a little something extra), but falling short of time diminishes the pleasure.  (Of course, if I know myself as well as I think I do, even if everything were done and wrapped in July, I'd still find something to work on and worry over at the last minute.  Some of us just can't seem to help ourselves.)

I've kept up with taking a photo every day of December so far, but I'm not as good about posting one everyday... and some of them are pretty lackluster (see above re: busyness of the season, etc.)... Still, something's better than nothing.  (I don't think I'll try to do this again next year, though... It's just too busy a time of the year to bother much with photo challenges.)

We haven't sent out any cards yet... I just put up our stockings yesterday (and finally put away the boxes we use to store our Christmas decorations)... and we've yet to do any Christmas baking.

BUT-- We have at least a few treats planned.  I will make (and eat far too many of) the iced/glazed roll-out sugar cookies I like the best.  (I love those things; as a result, it's best if I don't make them more than a few times a year.)  Donald is going to make Lucia kattar (lussekattar?) one of these days, too.  (They're saffron buns-- a yummy, slightly sweet, traditional Swedish bread eaten on Lucia Day... which technically has already passed, since it's celebrated on December 13th.  That's ok; we always have our Lucia buns well past Lucia Day.)  Donald's also going to make some sort of rice pudding dish-- another Swedish Christmas tradition.  (And one that he enjoys alone, in this house.  Rice pudding holds little appeal for me... Kind of like glögg, which also failed to impress.  Sorry, Swedes!  I still like your lussekattar a lot... And your "house cheese" is extremely yummy... Also your boiled and fried potatoes with dill, your meatballs, and that gravy you serve with the meatballs and potatoes... Your pizza is very good... as is your candy.  And I've even learned to eat crispbread, on occasion.)

There may be one or two other goodies up our sleeves, too.  We'll see...

The song got it right-- the weather outside is frightful.  Chilly, wet, and raw.  But fortunately, we've no place to go today, so we can stay cozy, dry, and warm-- take it easy-- maybe play a board game this afternoon-- and generally just enjoy the comforts of home.  (And possibly I'll spend some time working on my little Top Secret Projects.)

Hey, I even think my case of the sneezy sniffles (which showed up yesterday afternoon) aren't as bad as they were and could be fading away altogether!  (So maybe I won't come down with a cold right in time for Christmas... Maybe.)

I hope you're enjoying a pleasant Decembery Saturday as well!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dirty Santa "Prescriptions"

The other day, Donald found some files on his computer-- fake prescription bottle labels we made for a Dirty Santa gift a few years ago.

Brief explanation:  We play "Dirty Santa" every year at my maternal grandparents' Christmas get-together.  That year, for one of our contributions to the gift pile, we designed and printed the labels, pasted/taped them to emptied, cleaned prescription bottles filled with either candy or dollar coins, put the bottles in a little white paper bag, and stapled it shut with one of those notes like you get at the real pharmacist's shop.

I'd forgotten exactly what we put on the labels.  Some of it's kind of funny, if I do say so myself. ;o)

Dirty Santa's Pharmacy

Dirty Santa's Pharmacy

Dirty Santa's Pharmacy

Dirty Santa's Pharmacy

Dirty Santa's Pharmacy

...I wonder what Dirty Santa will bring this year... (g)

P.S.  I forgot to explain why the years on the "prescription labels" are 2010 instead of whatever year we actually used them.  I changed that and took off a little text here and there (because it contained a family surname).  If any random person happens to find this entry and wants to use the labels (or an altered version of them) for his or her own gag gift, please feel free to do so.  :o)

Philander / Meander & SNL

Two Random Things!

First Thing:

Since Donald doesn't make as many little mistakes with English as he did when I first met him (and those were more often mispronunciations than anything else-- "necktie" sounded like "necktee", for instance), the occasional little slip-up is all the more treasured. ;o)  This time, it was him using the word "philandering" when what he meant was "meandering".  Hey, that's a pretty impressive vocabulary for a non-native speaker!  But I'll still laugh (lovingly) at you when you refer to someone "philandering" through the woods (or however it was he was using the word). (g)

Second Thing:

Last weekend, we happened to catch a little Saturday Night Live.  Inevitably, the conversation turned to the topic of how unfunny most of it was-- and how they rarely fail to take a mediocre joke/gag (something that might elicit a tepid, murmured "heh" the first time 'round), then repeat it over and over again, beating the proverbial dead horse down to the molecular level... and then hitting it one more time, just to be sure.

Before, we've wondered if this level of "humor" is adopted because it's Saturday night and much of the target audience will have been drinking heavily and won't require anything that's actually, you know, funny to make them giddy or at least content to sit (passed out?) through the entire program...

But I think we've now come up with a better theory:  SNL is basically "Teletubbies" for adults.  Are you one of the lucky few who've never been subjected to "The Teletubbies"?  One of the most annoying things about that old kids' show is that they'll show a video clip (on one of the characters' tummy-TVs, of course)... and once it's finally over, you'll hear a chorus of children's voices-- or is the 'Tubsters themselves?-- demanding "Again! Again!" And here's the worst part:  They show the whole boring video clip again.  (Or something like that.  Forgive me if I've gotten it slightly wrong.  One of my goals in life is to watch as little "Teletubbies" as possible, so I may have missed some of its subtler nuances.)

...Anyway... This SNL thing of taking the same sad little scrap of a joke and playing it over and over and OVER again is pretty much just like that.  It's "Teletubbies" for adults.  Only... is there anyone out there who's honestly shouting, "Again! Again!" at his TV set?  Seriously?  For stuff like this?

Yes, I watch things over again, myself.  I reread favorite books, play the same song two or three times in a row... I like repeating favorite things as much as more than the next person (probably), but that only applies to things I really like and/or have found worth repeating.  Not silly jokes that weren't even funny the first time.

...I'm beginning to think that Saturday Night Live isn't aimed at people like me!  ;o)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Breaking News!

I just found the jingle bells. 
(I figured you'd all want to know as soon as possible that this Very Important Issue has been resolved.) 

They were even in the exact little checkbook box I remembered putting them in (so my mind's not slipping yet, after all).  For some reason, they were hidden under/among some packaging supplies-- tissue paper and bubble wrap I was saving to reuse. 

(Okay, I know it wasn't the biggest problem facing the world, but not being able to find those bells was really bothering me.  I hate not being able to find things when they're needed...)

...Now if I can just get my sewing machine running smoothly again. 

I broke a needle on my last project, and after I replaced it, the tension was off (or something).  I've adjusted it this way and that... tried a different replacement needle (in case the other was defective)... opened up the bottom to clean and oil it as the manual suggests... took off the side (which the manual doesn't even mention) and oiled a couple of things in there, too.  I think the oil may have helped some irritating squeaking it had recently developed.  Fingers crossed it magically fixed the other issue, too...

Friday, December 10, 2010


Possessing the sure and certain knowledge that there are large jingle bells somewhere in the house, but being unable to remember where-- and finding that tearing the house apart in search of them yields no results (other than that the house is even messier than it was before the jingle bell-hunting frenzy began)-- is enough to bring a person to the brink of insanity.

Where are you, you jingly little bells, you?!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Ridiculous Things

(Courtesy of Neal Boortz... though technically I first read about the bake sale thing over the weekend...)

Thing the First:

"Toy guns will have to be licensed in Queensland (Australia)."

"Any item that looks like a gun will have to be licensed under several changes to the Weapons Act being considered by the Queensland State Government.  Even guns made out of materials as unlikely as soap or plastic may have to be kept under lock and key if they could 'reasonably be taken to be a weapon'."

I wonder how long it would take to get something like that passed here, too...  As long as there are toy guns on the streets, no-one's safe!!  Something must be done!!!

Thing the Second:
CNSNews reports, "A child nutrition bill on its way to President Barack Obama - and championed by the first lady - gives the government power to limit school bake sales and other fundraisers that health advocates say sometimes replace wholesome meals in the lunchroom."
Thank goodness!  It's about time someone regulated this sinister practice!!  The Rice Krispy treats!  The chocolate chip cookies!  The brownies!  (Lord love a duck, the brownies!)  I know I'll sleep better at night knowing the children aren't eating as many bake sale brownies.

I Feel So... Honored!

This morning, I found in our e-mail inbox one of those infamous "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope, 'cuz I'm trapped in England(UK); all my things were stolen and I need you to wire me some money, stat" letters.  It was (as is usual in these cases) cleverly disguised as an e-mail from someone I know-- a fairly distant relative who has never written me before (didn't even know they had our e-mail address, actually), but that only made me all the more curious when I saw the name.  Fortunately, I knew about the scheme... plus I'm skeptical/cautious by nature... plus I figure I'm about the hundredth person down the list of contacts this woman would think of in an emergency... so no, that sum of $2,160 (weird number!) will not be leaving our bank account today.  But good try, whoever you are.

I've heard about this type of scam before, but I think this is the first time we've seen it in person.  So much more personalized than the traditional Nigerian scam where you have a princess or some other wealthy foreigner (possibly even an elderly widow) who just happens to pick you out of nowhere to offer the OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME.   (All you have to do is wire them some money to cover some trifling little fees to free up the cash, and then they'll shower you with a portion of their wealth-- just because they like your e-mail address-- and sometimes because they know you're a good Christian!) 

In such a world as this, since it's not possible for me personally to do anything about these **** scammers, I guess the best thing to do is try to feel honored that they finally got around to us.  ;o)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

25 Days of Christmas (Photo Challenge)

I wrote about this yesterday on my photo blog, but in case there's someone who doesn't check that and yet is still interested in my silly little photo challenges/projects (unlikely), I thought I'd mention it here, too.  (Also, because when I post about something political, I tend to want to put something else so the political entry's not at the top of the page.  I know, I'm weird...)

- - - - -

Hey, I managed to complete the Month of Gratitude Challenge!  (Er, well, after a fashion.  I didn't post a photo a day, but I took at least one every day, and eventually got them all posted before the end of November.)

Now I'm thinking of setting a personal challenge for myself for (most of) December.  I've seen similar group challenges on Flickr, but at this point, I'm going solo--  that is, not posting it to any group pool.

25 Days of Christmas
--The challenge, should I choose to accept it ;o), is to take (at least) one seasonally-themed, Christmasy, wintery photo a day (and post it to my photo blog, as well as my Flickr photostream), from December 1st to December 25th. 

And... that's pretty much it.  I'll try to post a photo every day, but, well, you've seen how that goes... So long as I'm at least taking a photo a day, I'll be satisfied. 

Anyone who cares to follow suit-- or link to one of your favorite holiday-themed photos-- is welcome to do so!

Political Post Re: the Wonderful Possible Tax Increase

Don't say I didn't warn you.  ;o)

These three tweets from Jamie Dupree last night elicited my finest grade of disgusted "ugh".  (Those unfamiliar with Twitter-- yes, there are still a few of them out there ;o)-- the older the tweet is, the further down the list it is... so read from bottom up.):

You can read about the subject at greater length here.

Wasn't that sweet of the (Democrat-dominated) Senate?  Gosh, I just love those guys!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bad News / Good News

The Bad:
The pipe taking water into our water heater broke last night, spewing water over a large part of the room and flooding the majority of the floor.

The Good:
Donald was right there when it happened, so we were able to get the water shut off fairly quickly.  (If it had broken when we were asleep or away from the house...)

The Bad:
No water from the taps (or to the toilets) overnight and about half the next day...

The Good:
At least we could still get water out at the pump, so we had fairly easy access to water for drinking and other absolute necessities (and were able to flush the toilets manually).

The Bad:
It initially didn't look like quite so simple of a fix as one might hope (weird tools needed, etc.)...

The Good:
Dad just happened to have this week off work, so he was able to help us. (Thanks again, Dad!)  Also, it turned out we could use a different system that didn't require weird tools!

The Bad:
We had to move anything that was on the floor in the (crowded, cluttered) utility room (including washer, drier, and chest freezer), plus quite a few things on shelves, because they got wet.

The Good:
Cleaning / reorganizing the utility room was already on my "bigger projects" to-do list, so this is just forcing me to go ahead and do it.  (Unfortunately, all this will probably push back putting up the Christmas tree by a day or two...)

The Bad:
I'm now more worried that we'll have a similar problem inside the walls, with the plumbing for our showers/baths.

The Good:
That hasn't happened so far... and maybe if we're lucky, it won't happen for many years to come... At least with the house on a slab, there's not as much wood to be potentially ruined... (Please, no-one write in the comments a reason why such a plumbing disaster is even worse in a house on a slab, because if you do, I'll have to hunt you down and hurt you.  No, I'm serious.  Don't test me.)

It's a good thing this happened after I took my last photo for the Month of Gratitude challenge.  I had a hard time feeling grateful for a few hours afterward.  Now, however, with the water running (hot and cold!) and the washing machine chugging merrily along (hardly a dry towel in the house!), I'm back to feeling appreciative.  ;o)

Well, If Mummy Says He's Good...

"Don't hunt down my son," says mother of WikiLeaks founder.

Ugh.  You know what, lady?  Cry me a river.  Your baby's all grown up now, and it's time he takes responsibility for his actions.

(Not in the mood to be particularly sympathetic with the publicly whining parents of criminals and other miscreants, today...)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Minimalism, Schminimalism

Sometimes I look over a room-- or even just a bookcase or table-- and think, "Maybe I should get rid of all this stuff.  We don't need all these little bits and pieces-- all these knickknacks... It would be so much easier to keep the house clean and dusted if all this crap just went away."  (Yes, I think "crap".  So long as I'm not already worked into a frenzy of bad temper by exhausting housework, in which case, maybe it's better I don't tell you what I think...)

...Then I usually either go ahead and spend ten minutes dusting, stand back to admire the gleaming surfaces, and think "Oh!  That wasn't so bad.  Why am I such a whiner?" (until five minutes later, when the dust has magically reappeared [cue the "it's better I don't tell you what I'm thinking"!])-- or I get sidetracked, forget my (temporary?) dislike of decorative clutter, and go another week or two without really bothering one way or the other. 

Still, it can't be denied that if I did eliminate some of the cluttery Stuff around the house, it would be easier to keep clean.  Maybe it would make the place feel more relaxing, too.  (On the other hand.... meh. Nah, I don't really think it would make that much difference.  Not to those of us who live here, at least.  It's amazing how you tune out your most familiar surroundings.  I frequently live under the blissful misapprehension that a room is, if not spotless, at least reasonably tidy and presentable-- until someone drops by for a minute, at which point offense after offense leaps to my eye (causing me to burn with shame ;o)).

Oh well.

The point of all this? 
Simply that no matter how I may occasionally consider tossing this, that, or the other, I never seriously want to live in a painfully minimalist home.  I suppose I'm just too traditional for the style.  So many of the (magazine versions of) minimalism look stark, cold, inhospitable-- nothing like a home should look, to my mind.  I mean, just look at this room... or this one... or (~shudder~) this one

Why would anyone choose to live that way?
So, yes.  Fine.  I'll live with the clutter of my earthly possessions-- books, knickknacks, whatnots, CDs, endless scraps of paper, and all.  Doing so seems much preferable to living without any clutter at all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seeking a Position as Graphic Designer... ;o)

Sometimes I take the lazy way out when it comes to cooking.   ("Who, you? There must be some sort of a mistake," you all say.  In unison.  In complete and utter disbelief.)   For instance, I'll use a can of pre-made chili together with another can (or two) of beans, add a few spices (according to personal taste), serve it (heated, no less!) with rice, and call it a meal.  I could make it from scratch, of course, but sometimes a shortcut is preferable.

So (now that I've explained what I'm doing with canned chili in the first place), I noticed something a little odd about one of these cans, the other night.  It was decorated with two little figures.  "Chili Masters", I believe they are meant to be.  They're holding bowls of chili with blue ribbons attached, so you know they can cook.  However, I'm not sure I'd dare to sample their stew.  There's something a little... off about them...

Here we have the creepy Chili Dude:

And then there's the even more sinister (if that's possible) Chili Dudette (or at least I assume it's a dudette, because that is clearly a lacy/frilly, scalloped neckline...):

Ok, where do you go to get hired to make the art for labels for canned chili?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fourth Thursday of November

I'm signing on just to wish a happy, safe Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans (and anyone else who chooses to celebrate it).  So... Happy Thanksgiving!  May your plate overfloweth with good food even as your heart doth with warm fuzzies.  ;o)

Honestly, it doesn't feel like Thanksgiving (yet) to me.  This is mostly because it is warm and humid.  (I suspect that my moods are too heavily influenced by weather and other external stimuli...)  Well, there will still be family and food later, and it I try really hard, I might even work up a sense of gratitude for the many blessings in my life. ;o)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No, Really?

Here's something else to file under "Yeah, We Already Knew That":
A new study determines that dogs are smarter than cats.

This study seems to have based everything on brain size and how it correlates with social skills, which I don't think is the strongest argument ever made, but based on my own observations of cats and dogs (and their relative problem-solving abilities, among other things), I was already convinced that the average dog is smarter than the average cat.

...That said, there are also dumb-as-a-rock dogs and exceptionally intelligent cats.  Both cats and dogs are impressive animals, but in some ways they are so different that comparison is pointless.

P.S.  Yes, you're right; I may be biased.  Though I would've considered myself a cat person during younger years, I am now happily a dog person.  Cats are nice, but if I have to choose, I'd rather have a dog at my side.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Catch-Up Entry

The weather forecasters didn't know what they were talking about, today.  No-one (that I heard/read) mentioned even a chance of rain for today, yet I drove to the grocery store through fairly heavy rain... walked through drizzle to get into the store... came home to find that it had rained here, too... and now it's drizzling raining heavily again.  I'm not really complaining (not now that I'm home and dry, I'm not), but it's unusual that they're this far off the mark about rain. 

- - - - -

Around Halloween, Carrie and Victor announced that they're expecting their first child-- which will be the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  (ETA: Well, the first on both sides of our family, I mean-- but not the first on Victor's side.)  Obviously this was big news.  ;o)  (They told my parents by presenting them with a bucket of candy-- a very careful selection of candy, such as Sour Patch Kids, Sugar Babies, etc.)

The due date is sometime in mid-May (I think).  Still waiting to hear if I'm going to be an aunt or an uncle. (Ha ha. (g))  Seriously, though, I'm curious whether it's a boy or a girl.  (This is a perfect excuse for more crocheting, and I need to figure out what pattern and colors I want to use!)

- - - - -

A while (month? I lose track of time) ago, my father brought a good pile of mulch up to our yard from the pond.  (Which reminds me, as if I needed reminding, that I need to finish spreading that. Time goes too quickly!!)  Anyway, I spent some time carting it around and spreading it over plantings and around trees.  At first, I took care that the dogs shouldn't be outside while I did this, because I thought they might get in the way.

See Trixie watching me through a window?  Isn't that adorable? ;o)

Trixie Watches

Later on, however, they managed to be out while I worked.  Trixie found the digging into Mulch Mountain very exciting.  Every time I jabbed the shovel into the pile, she pounced on it, growl-barking and biting it. (ETA again:  I meant that she pounced on the mulch pile-- not the shovel... which would be kind of dangerous.  It was almost like she thought I was attacking the pile and wanted to join in.)  (See?  I told you it was exciting.  Bet you didn't believe it was really that thrilling, did you?)

Once some of it was taken away, the pile of mulch became Molly's designated spot to wait for our return when we go on walks:

Molly on Mulch Mountain

Outdoor pet beds-- yet another use for mulch!
- - - - -

While I was out doing yard work, I happened to look up and catch sight of a huge flock of American White Pelicans.  You may recall that we spotted a group of these birds a couple years ago.  I posted a (shaky) video of it, back then.  This flock was much larger and therefore more impressive.  I ran to tell Donald, and while he snapped some photos, I got some more (shaky) video of the flock.

American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans

- - - - -

Let's see... What else?

According to my (old) cheat-sheet of Subjects to Mention on the Blog, we went to Fairhope Pier to eat pizza and take photos.  Apparently it was ideal photo weather, because there were photographers everywhere.  And not just casual photographers, either.  There were people with tripods (and you guys, they were actually using them).  There were people with big, for real cameras and lenses.  There was even someone doing bridal portraits... of a bride... in her flowing white wedding gown and veil.  Seriously, it was like the local community college had sent out a whole class of Photography 101 students on a field trip to the pier. 


Mobile Bay

Sunset Sparkle & Glow

You couldn't ask for more beautiful weather.
...And then we saw a cruise ship leaving Mobile, which was also pretty neat. 

- - - - -

After finishing with Project 365, I wanted to set up another photo blog for any smaller photo challenges I may decide to try.  Here it is for anyone interested:  The View Through My Lens.

Right now, I'm in the middle of a month-long challenge for November-- A Month of Gratitude.  The challenge (not surprisingly, given the title) is to take a photo a day representing something that makes you feel grateful.  One of my friends from the online community of polymer clay enthusiasts had the idea and invited people to join.  If you like, you can visit the Flickr group pool to see what has inspired others with gratitude.

So far, my photos for the challenge have been kind of random, but that's ok.  November always seems like a fairly busy month to me, so I'm feeling sufficiently challenged even with my random (sometimes not-so-great) photos.

- - - - -

Ok, that's caught-up enough!  ;o)
I hope you're all enjoying your last full week of November!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Give Me the Creeps, Why Dontcha?

(Let me preface this by saying that I recognize that this article is in The Sun-- possibly not the very most reliable news source in existence.  ...That said, I've read about at least some of these inventions before, in other papers.)

"A ROBOT that can fall in love with its owner could put an end to millions of lonely hearts across the globe."

People of the world--  Why would you want to waste your time and affection on an inanimate object (in expectation of getting some positive feedback from said object-- completely different from taking interest in a collection of some sort)?  Chances are, there are people out there who will be your friends-- possibly even your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.  For goodness' sake, if you can't find another person to connect with for the time being, at least get a dog-- cat-- pet cockroach-- any other living thing that can genuinely benefit from your care and attention. 

These "love robot" stories are creepy, pathetic, and horrifying. 
I just- don't- get it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Sound Grumpy, Don't I?

In Which Michael Responds to the Headlines...
(Because everyone's been waiting for my opinions on this stuff-- with bated breath.)

--Britain's Royal Engagement... Betrothal... Whatever.
Yeah, "whatever" pretty much sums up my response, as well.  A wedding?  That's fine, but I don't particularly care.  It was fun to pretend "princess" when I was a little girl, but in those days, I was usually a princess myself... or my favorite Barbie doll was-- either of which was infinitely more exciting to imagine than a real royal wedding in another country.  I just can't bring myself to view it with anything more than the most casual of passing interest.

--Scanners and "Enhanced" Pat-Downs.
I get that there needs to be security screening of some kind-- but I'm afraid that in the end, because the people we're dealing with are insane, willing to kill themselves along with their victims, there's no way to completely protect ourselves (or at least not just by screening people boarding flights).

When I see or hear about elderly women and nuns being selected for special screening, I'm very frustrated.
 So let me get this straight... They're asking me to endure greater inconvenience-- further prying into my personal space-- the indignity of a pat-down or the (supposedly minute) radiation of some new scanner that reveals every detail of my body?  ...If I agree, they had better be using whatever other methods are at their disposal-- including some form of the much-maligned profiling.  It's common sense.  It's possible that at some future date, we will find that elderly women and nuns are recruited as terrorists (or that terrorists disguise themselves as such), but until that day, let's not waste time hassling Granny, ok?

Mostly, I'd just rather not fly again, ever.  Unfortunately, that's probably not an option.

--Local News Guy Entices Viewers to Stay Tuned-In with the Promise that They'll Get to See Him Get a Flu Shot Later On.
...Well, that does sound mighty fun...  I mean, the only thing better than that would be getting a flu shot of my very own... but... I think I'll pass.  (...Who comes up with these things?  Since when is is Great Fun to see news anchors getting medical procedures?  Nightmarish.)

--Gwyneth Paltrow on Glee!
Remind me not to watch.  Er, well, considering that I never watch Glee anyway, don't bother.  ;o)

...and at this point, I realize that this has become nothing more than a grump-fest.  So I'll stop.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One-Way Ticket to Mars? Any Takers?

Have you heard about this?  "Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars" because "human travel to Mars could happen much more quickly and cheaply if the missions are made one-way".  Well, I can't really argue with the logic, but I wonder what kind of people would hear that proposal and say, "Sign me up!"

I guess my initial reaction ("No way, no how, never-ever, unh-uh!") is not a particularly useful gauge of the average person's opinion of the idea, because that is also my reaction to the idea of going into space at all (even one of those brief joyrides that are supposedly going to become so commonplace).  I'll leave that to other people.  Me, I'm staying here on home-sweet-Earth, thanks all the same.  I'll take my chances with the asteroids, etc., right here.

That-- asteroids-- is what these types of articles always seem to mention as the reason that colonization is so crucial.  They casually inform us that the Earth will probably be destroyed, sooner or later, so we don't want to leave all our eggs in one basket.  Gee, thanks for trying to ruin my mood this morning, random journalists.  I really appreciate these frequent reminders that the whole world could go ka-blooey in the blink of an eye.  It makes life so cozy and cheerful.  *grump grump grump*  Look, I'm perfectly fine not thinking about crap like that, so would you mind keeping your daydreams of cataclysm to yourselves?

One of my favorite lines from the article?  "They argue that it would be little different from early settlers to North America, who left Europe with little expectation of return."  ...Yeah, except that most of those people were going in search of a better life for themselves and their families... and there would be quite a few other people with them, including maybe their immediate family (and if not, they probably intended to have the family follow them eventually)... and they probably thought that if worse came to worst, they might possibly be able to find their way back to the Old Country... oh, and they were "only" going to a different continent, not a whole 'nother planet

But apart from those things, yeah, it's totally the same thing. (Good grief.)

(By the way, I'm not saying this won't or shouldn't happen... just... I'm really glad I'm not the one making the trip!)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Probably Should Keep My Mouth Shut...

(As a female Michael, maybe this is one of those subjects I have no business addressing, but maybe it's for that very reason that I find it of interest...)

I read a story today that included a list of the names that grew the fastest in popularity in 2009.  Three of the top ten are "Twilight names"-- names that (it seems very likely) were chosen more often because of their appearance in the Twilight series.  (The names, in case you're wondering, are Cullen-- #1 on the list!-- Emmett, and Jasper.)

Well, I suppose it's a step up from naming your baby after someone in a soap opera... I mean, they're books, so there's reading involved, which imparts a certain degree of "class"... But still.

Who am I to judge, though?  Go ahead!  Add another little "Cullen" to the world.  For the rest of his life, everyone will know that Mommy has/had a thing for YA vampire fiction, but so be it!  I guess it's no worse than naming a baby after a popular song or a president's daughter.

I can even try to understand.  Maybe you just really liked the name "Jasper"...  "It's so different," you think.  "So fresh!"  And it doesn't hurt that you also like the character.  Of course, now it won't be quite such a unique name, but, eh, it's different enough.  Now to just figure out how to convince your husband that it's a great idea to name your infant son after a sparkly vampire...

(And yes, I realize that this is an old story.  Fortunately, few people read this blog for breaking news.)

Grief Counselors? Seriously?

Heard about this?:

A staffer for a congressional Democrat who came up short on Tuesday reports that a team of about five people stopped by their offices this morning to talk about payroll, benefits, writing a résumé, and so forth, with staffers who are now job hunting.

But one of the staffers was described as a “counselor” to help with the emotional aspect of the loss — and a section in the packet each staffer was given dealt with the stages of grief (for instance, Stage One being anger, and so on).

“It was like it was about death,” the staffer said. “It was bizarre.” The staffer did say the portions about the benefits and résumé writing were instructive.

Yeah, that does sound pretty bizarre.

Look, I'm all for good mental health.  If you're having problems, find someone to talk to.  Don't be ashamed to admit you're having trouble.  But this?  This is just ridiculous.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Obligatory Midterm Election Commentary

(But I'll keep it brief.)

Come what may in the months ahead, watching the midterm election results roll in Tuesday night was a pleasant change after the last election.  One of the high points of the evening:  We happened to be watching ABC when they (finally, long after the other networks had done so) announced that the Republicans would take control of the House.  Diane Sawyer apparently couldn't quite contain her disappointment; she frowned and shook her head (slightly) while turning away.  Ha!  Yeah, really unbiased and professional there, Diane*.  She's not alone, though.  It was clear that many of the anchors that night (and the morning after) were displeased by the turn of events. 

Also:  Are they really going to keep calling the whole thing "Midterm Madness"?  Like voters had to be crazy to vote the way they did?  Ugh. 

*The next morning, I read that at one point she expressed dismay at the news that Republicans are active on the Internet-- or, as most seem to remember her putting it, "You say you've seen signs that Republicans have moved into the Internet?  And are now dominating there?" ...I know it's hard to believe, but yes, non-liberals also use the computer box, and a few of us have even managed to figger out howter git on thuh Internets.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Search for the Perfect Window Dressing

Going through some photos today, I came across a screen capture I've been holding on to for a while.

What interesting thing might this be?  Why, the curtains in a TV kitchen, of course!  (Yes, this is going to be a home decorating blog post.  You may want to sneak out right about now.)

These curtains hang in the Gilbert family's kitchen.  ...In The Vampire Diaries.  (I know, I know.  But it's better than you [probably] think.)

Anyway, here's the photo:

We need curtains for our kitchen/breakfast room windows.  When we repainted, we took down the tired, lace valances that we'd "made do" with for so long, and now I refuse to put them back up, for fear I'll decide to just continue "making do" instead of replacing them with something nicer.

I just have to figure out what kind I want to make... buy the fabric... and, um, make them.  (Have I mentioned I've never sewn any type of curtain before?  But I do know how to work a basic sewing machine, so I think I can handle it.)

I like the ones in the photo (which is why I saved it), but even if I could somehow find that exact fabric (...which is what I like about them), that set up wouldn't work for us.  You see, people in TV shows, movies, and glossy-paged magazines always have these beautiful windows framing "views"-- with nary a blind in sight.   (Frequently, they have no curtains, either.  I guess TV/movie/magazine people don't require privacy and never get that prickly-necked feeling that Someone-- or Something--  may be lurking just outside, watching... Must be nice, huh?)

I, on the other hand, live in the real world-- and more specifically in the Southern U.S. region of the real world, where the summer sun shines hot and the A/C drives up the electricity bill.  Blinds are pretty well a necessity, it seems to me.  You could do a shade instead of blinds, but I don't have any experience with shades, except those hideous dark green ones they used in some of the older classrooms in middle school.  Those things blocked out all the light-- not good, when you need them pulled down for hours at a time, during the hottest time of a summer day.  I am considering using some type of shades in conjunction with more decorative curtains, but I'm afraid I'd still feel like we need blinds, too.

...Maybe this is some type of mental illness-- a bizarre addiction to blinds.  I suppose you can still be addicted to something even if you hate it... ;o)

Anyway, I need to figure out what to do.  I'm tired of those empty windows--  empty save for those ugly blinds, that is.  (It's funny how I hate empty/curtain-less windows so much more than empty walls... I need to work on that some more, too, though.  We have things that need to be hung.  --But where??  The eternal question...)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One More Book...

This morning, I remembered that when I wrote my book blog post the other day, I didn't mention that I'd read the last in the Huger Games trilogy, before I finished the last Lucia book and picked up Never Let Me Go.  (So, if you haven't read The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, this probably won't be interesting for you... and there are spoilers, too.  Beware!)

(No, seriously.  There are **SPOILERS** down there.  Just walk away now and nobody has to get hurt.)

I had been looking forward to the conclusion of the series, because I enjoyed the first two books-- especially the first.  I didn't really know what to expect, but I didn't expect what it turned out to be.  It wasn't necessarily a bad book, but it just felt... weak, somehow, and weakening.   

Honestly, much of the book has already faded in my memory, but from what I recall, Mockingjay felt too, too dark.  Yeah, I know it's about war.  However, the first two books also dealt with dark subjects, but for whatever reason, they never felt utterly hopeless and despairing like this one did.  It was like this:  "DARK DARK DARKER *occasional spot in which Katniss is (annoyingly, inexplicably) Little Miss Perfect Heroine™*, and now back to your regularly scheduled DARK DARK DARKNESS." 

Side note:  Maybe I've forgotten something... but didn't it turn out that Katniss' attempt to get close enough to President Snow to kill him-- the decision to sneak into the heart of the city-- was... well, totally unnecessary?  Argh!  I mean, (again) yeah, sure, that's probably realistic.  But that makes it even more frustrating that so many characters ended up killed during that "special operation".  (And this is just one example of how irritating this book was to me.)

Even the conclusion, in which the romantic subplot is finally resolved, just doesn't feel like nearly enough.  Maybe it's realistic, but it's a very sad reality... and it didn't feel in keeping with the beginning of the series.  It was a let-down.  It just fizzled.  I felt that we readers (not to mention Katniss and Peeta) deserved something a little better than that. 

Anyway, I suppose it's a good enough book for what it is-- thought-provoking, moving, and so on.  It's just not one I'm clamoring to re-read. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This & That

Autumn has finally come... then gone away again... then returned.  I think it's here to stay, now.  (The hummingbirds also disappeared with the first taste of cool weather, and though we spotted a few stragglers a week or so later, I doubt we'll see more of them until next year.)  It's already difficult not to take the cooler, drier air for granted (how soon we forget the long heat and humidity that is summer!), and I've moved on to grumbling that we need rain.  Of course, the first rain we're likely to get this month would coincide with the day I need to drive in slightly unfamiliar territory-- but isn't that always the way these things work out?  I doubt it'll be blinding, flooding rain, at any rate, so that's ok. (A summer gusher can be scary when you're behind the wheel, trying to see a couple car-lengths ahead of you.  Fall drizzle is just atmospheric, so long as everyone else on the road behaves themselves.)

Parts of Sweden are already seeing snow this month.
...Nothing more to say about that, really... Just an observation.  (g)

- - - - -

We bought four new crepe myrtles recently.  There's one Natchez (large tree type crepe myrtle, white flowers, cinnamon bark), one Victor (smaller, bushy / dwarf type crepe myrtle, dark red flowers), and two Tonto (smaller tree type crepe myrtle, red flowers). 

- - - - -

Donald ran in the 5K Mullet Run in Fairhope, last weekend.  He had a time of 25:29 (which I would never have remembered if I hadn't asked him and written it down).  This wasn't quite as good as he'd hoped.  It still seemed pretty good to me, since if I'd tried to run it (which I didn't, being a sensible, lazy sort of person who preferred to walk the short-cut at a leisurely pace, pausing now and then to take photos), I'd have had to walk much of the way and would've ended up with a truly pathetic time.  Apparently, one part of the race-course is a hill/incline that lasts for about half a mile. (Donald's usual "track" doesn't have anything quite like that.)  And the whole thing was on asphalt (whereas Donald does most of his regular running on the soil/grass/pebbles of the easement).  So-- if it were me, I wouldn't worry too much about the time I got on this particular run... but then, I'm not really a runner, so what do I know about such things? ;o) (The not caring about my "personal best", etc. is probably a big part of why running holds no appeal for me.  Well, that and the aforesaid laziness.  I'd rather do a sprint than a 5K, any day.  Go as fast as you can for a brief period and call it a day.  Or better yet, let's just walk there, shall we?)

None of my photos from the run turned out great, but they're something to remember the day by. 

Here are some of the runners getting started (Donald was ahead of this group):

Running, Running, Running...

...And here's Donald getting near the finishing line:

Donald in the 5K Mullet Run

About to Finish the Run...

- - - - -

I finished my Project 365 (such as it was) earlier this month.  I've been taking a little of a break from the camera since then.  In one way, it's nice to not find myself thinking, "Oh, it's 6:00 and I still haven't taken my photo for the day!  What can I photograph this time that's not a dog, a flower, or a bug?"  But I am missing taking photos... which is silly, since there's nothing stopping me.  Whatever I might say about Project 365, it did do a pretty good job of "forcing" me to pick up the camera almost every day for a year.  I might need to come up with a few (smaller) personal challenges or goals to give myself a little direction/inspiration... 

- - - - -

Also this month, we received the disc with Donald's family's home videos.  Donald, Ingela, and Thorbjörn went together and had their family's old 8mm (? ...I think...) home videos converted to digital as a gift for their parents.  Donald says that they probably hadn't watched the film for perhaps 25 years, since they didn't have a projector.  There was something almost magical about watching those old bits of film.  It's the first time I can remember watching people I recognize in such old, soundless films-- so that in itself made the experience unusual.  Also, because I wasn't there the first time around (like Donald was), I recognized the younger faces and old location details (wallpaper, etc.) only from photos.  Add to that the fact that (although good for old film) the quality has a definite vintage feel (just like the old photos), and what you get is something that feels vaguely impossible-- almost like watching an old photo come to life (as in the Harry Potter books/movies). 

It was a real treat to see them!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trixie's Great Escape

Trixie's Great Escape:  Long, Rambly Version
(For Short Version, see below.)

One day (sometime this month), the gorgeous fall weather inspired me to take Trixie on a walk down toward the pond.   I hooked the retractable leash onto her collar, and we were on our way.  She wasn't particularly keen on walking, but then she never has cared for walks as much as you'd expect her to, given how enthusiastic she is about fetching, catching frisbees, and generally putting everything she's got into her playtime.  Still, we managed to plod along.  (Until...)

We came to about the mid-point of my parents' clearing (heading from our yard to the pond).  Their dogs (Mandy and Kolby, both Shelties) hadn't seen, heard, or smelled us-- and they never did, despite the fuss to come (probably because it was a windy day, with a northern wind carrying our scent and sound away from them)-- but Trixie was acutely aware of their unseen presence (in their temporary pen adjoining the new house).  She stared straight toward the pen, nose twitching.

I tried to be understanding.  I gave her some time to take in the new smells and then, when I'd concluded that she had become rooted to the spot, I gently pulled the leash to suggest that we continue.  No ma'am, she was having none of that.  There were (ohmygosh) other animals around here!  It wasn't safe!  She'd much rather go back home right now, thankyouverymuch!  Words of encouragement-- another little tug on the leash-- but no, still not interested.  In fact, she went so far as to pull back, and with almost no effort at all, she'd wriggled right out of her collar!  (That's taught me a lesson about leaving collars too loose!)

There was a split second before Trixie realized that she was free (free at last!), and then she turned and was off!  I spoke her name as calmly as I could manage-- I called more urgently-- I said the magic word, "Treat!  Treat!  Treat??"-- all to no avail (and I had treats with me, which Little Miss Super-Sniffer must've known).  I called after her, hoping to convince her that I'd seen how wrong I was to suggest she go on a walk, "Want to go inside?  Want to go see Molly?"  Nope, she wouldn't even afford me a backward glance.  Meanwhile, I was chasing after her, dragging my invisible-dog-style leash and empty collar along behind me.  I knew I'd never catch up to her if she didn't want me to, and I tried not to think what might happen if she took it into her crazy little head to run up to the road-- or even out on the easement, if a neighbor happened to be driving by-- but it looked like she was homeward bound.

There was a little while when she was out of view (because of the zig-zaggy nature of our path back)-- but when I got closer I was relieved to see her standing at the gate, waiting to be let in.  Whew!  Taking care not to spook her with sudden "I'm going to put this leash back on you"-type movements, I spoke more soothing, magical Trixie-words ("Want to go inside?  Want to see Molly?  Inside?  Molly?  Treat?"), opened the gate, and breathed even more easily when she walked right in, just as though this were our accustomed arrangement.  "There now, Michael, was that so hard?  Next time just do what I want and all will be well." 

Good grief!  That dog really doesn't like walks!  At least she ran back home straight as an arrow!

Following the old "get right back into the saddle" method, Donald and I put the harness on her and took her and Molly on a walk almost immediately afterward.  She didn't like the harness at first (tending to spin around, flop onto her side and stay perfectly still as soon as she felt any pull from the leash), but after a while-- with Molly's encouraging presence-- she decided it was livable.  Still, she's a little hesitant going out and pulls on the leash when she senses that we've turned homeward.  I think she may be more of a homebody recluse than I am... which is odd, given how playful and exuberant she is and how much she seems to enjoy meeting new people.

Trixie's Great Escape:  Short Version

I tried and failed to walk Trixie. That dog doesn't like walks.  Fortunately, she does like Home, and that's where she ran when she got away from me. Further walking training is needed.  Or...we could just not do walks, as she gets plenty of exercise from frisbee-fetching.  We'll see.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musing on Books Recently Read

I know, I haven't posted in forever.  And now that I am going to post, it's just a little rambling about books.  I started it about a month ago, so about time I finished it, I guess!

It's very snippety, but here it is (such as it is-- the type of thing no-one will care about except possibly myself):

- - - - -

I'm on my last Lucia novel, slowly reading my way through it. (Present Day Me:  Actually, I've finished it, now.  ...Not that I have anything more to add because of that, really...) It's funny how much those characters have grown on me.  Some books you love instantly, but these took a little longer, I'll admit.  Now, that world of characters feels like a cozy retreat from the little troubles of everyday life. 

I found (and watched) a small snippet of the old (1980s? 1990s?) BBC adaptation of the novels and was not exactly enthralled.  Maybe the series is better in other parts, but even the affected accents were a bit of a put-off.  Yes, of course I knew the characters are British, but when I read they don't sound quite that "snobby British" in my head. (Great, now I've offended the one British person who'll happen to find this on a Google search. Sorry!  I'm sure you don't sound snobbish. (g))

- - - - -

Donald and I read Ronia, the Robber's Daughter a while ago.  It was... ok.  It's one of those books that I think I would've liked more had I read it as a child, but as an adult reading it for the first time... it was a little too simple for my taste.  (And why bother creating fantastical creatures in a book if you're barely even going to use them?)  I couldn't help feeling exasperated with some of the characters, since it was so clear that most of their problems could have been solved by just talking.  That's probably more irritating to me now than it would've been when I was eight or nine, though, and goodness knows, plenty of adult books and real-life situations are just as frustrating for the same reason.  (Note of dubious interest:  Apparently the book was adapted to film at some point.  I think Donald said he went to see it on a school trip-- what we would've called a "field trip".)

- - - - -

The "Jeeves & Wooster" P.G. Wodehouse (I almost typed "Wodestock"! which would be a great name for a Wodehouse convention, if such a thing existed... and maybe it does...) book we're currently reading (er, make that were currently reading)--Much Obliged, Jeeves-- is much what you'd expect, if you're at all familiar with Wodehouse and/or the Jeeves books.  So far, what has most impressed itself upon us is the increased frequency with which Wooster (our narrator) mentions his old school-days prize for Scripture Knowledge.  (g)  Poor guy, he must need an ego-boost.

- - - - -
What we're actually reading now is something by Jerome K. Jerome, author of Three Men in a Boat (which I highly recommend to people who like to laugh)-- a collection of essays titled Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow.  It's not completely even in quality.  The first essay, for instance, "On Being Idle", I seem to recall as thoroughly hilarious and insightful.  Then later on there was a bit that was just too, too flowery... and somewhat unflattering to women, I must say... and that a certain professor I once had would definitely have labeled as "trite".  Unfortunately, that style has popped up a couple of times, so far, but there's still plenty to enjoy.  It's surprising (thought it really shouldn't be) how little human nature and thought has changed since this piece was written in the late 1800s.  

(Why does that still feel surprising?  However, maybe it's not so much the fact that it's still true after so much time that's a surprise.  It's just that odd sensation of, "now, how did he know that about me?!"-- which can happen with books from any era... and which can be either unsettling or comforting, depending on how you choose to look at it.)
- - - - -

My last read was Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro.  This is my first experience with this author, though we already have two more of his novels (thanks to one of the big library book sales).  I probably wouldn't have started with this one if it weren't for the movie adaptation that's coming out (already come out?).  I saw it mentioned on TV and thought I'd better read it before spoilers began proliferating.

On that note, I should mention that there will be spoilers for the novel, from here on out.  So if you don't want it ***SPOILED*** by ***SPOILERS FOR NEVER LET ME GO***... I repeat BIG BAD SPOILERS DEAD AHEAD... then you might want to avoid the rest of this entry.

...There.  If I wasn't all alone before, I am now.  ;o)

Points of interest:

- Some of the story was given away in the blurbs on the cover-- and (as I mentioned before) now there's "entertainment news" chatter about the film adaptation to avoid, as well.  I wonder how the experience would've been different without any of those spoilers... As it was, since I already knew the children were clones, there weren't any shocking revelations I can recall.  I'm not sure if there were even meant to be any, though...  I like it when authors give me the chance to figure at least parts of the story out on my own, but in this case, I wish I'd been stunned at the end.  I kept hoping I'd be wrong about the novel's conclusion.  Unfortunately, not this time.

- Again we have the old "why didn't they just TALK??" issue (repeatedly). I mean, I guess it's a reflection of what frequently happens in real life, but it still irritates me beyond all get-out.  Maybe more than it does in real life... Also irritating:  Why did Cathy let Ruth walk all over her, so much of the time?  I'm annoyed with Ruth for being such a bossy you-know-what, but then I can't help but feel angry with Cath for not standing up for herself.  And then there's Tommy, who is also annoying because he's so needy-- too weak to express his feelings for Cath-- and just plain kind-of-stupid.  (Sorry, dude, but you're not the brightest bulb.)  Yes, yes, I still feel desperately sorry for the characters, but I still manage to find them annoying.  It's this special talent I have.  Maybe I'm trying to distance myself from the emotional drain of reading the novel by being miffed at every single character in it... Or maybe I'm just mean.  Draw your own conclusions, but please keep them to yourself. ;o)

- It seems that everyone asks this question-- except those who appear to be mortally offended by it, for some reason:  Why didn't they run away??  I guess the answer is that it simply doesn't occur to them, as they've been raised to blindly accept their allotted role as organ donors.  Then there's the practical thought that even if they had, there wasn't anywhere for them to have gone.  They had little-to-no real-world skills-- no money-- few possessions--  no family or friends to turn to for help (outside of the system of donors, carers, and clinics/"centres").  There was nowhere for them to run, I suppose, but the absolute hopelessness of the situation-- sensing from the beginning that they wouldn't escape, but still reading on and hoping that maybe they'd at least try, even if it meant only a week or two of comparative freedom... It was a painful, "heavy-heart" read.

The story certainly makes you grateful for the opportunity and freedom you've had in your own life (and also makes you question how you've used those opportunities and just how free anyone ever really is... and then there's that whole, "oh yeah, we're all going to die, someday" thing!), but I can't see myself re-reading this one.  Once was enough. 

After that heart-wringer, I'm ready for something familiar and comforting... Either Jane Eyre or some L.M.M., maybe...

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This is exactly what I was writing about in my last post... (If you haven't read that one, this one will seem very random...)

Someone wrote (somewhere out there on the WWW) that while they have no problem with heavily edited photos, they request that you explain what you did-- how you edited it.  (Fine.  Seems a little picky to me if it's nothing extreme-- just adjusting the colors-- but whatever.)  It's the reason behind the request that I find irritating:

While some of prefer to get most of it right in camera others are using their digital editing skills and taking their images to another level. On the most part there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, however we believe that in today’s digital age one should at least be honest. If you have edited an image - put in a rainbow, a moon, intensified the colour - whatever you have done, just be honest. Don’t allow others to feel incompetent just because you can work an image editing program.
Did you catch that?

"Don't allow others to feel incompetent just because you can work an image editing program."

~insane satirical laughter omitted~

So, let me see if I've got this right... It's perfectly fine (I assume) for Sally Snapshot to feel "incompetent" if your straight-out-of-the-camera photograph is miles better than hers... But if your photo turns out better than hers "just because you can work an image editing program", that's no reason for the poor thing to feel "incompetent".

...Written like someone who doesn't him/herself know how to "work" those image editing programs, don't you think?

Sheesh, people.  Since when is it top priority that no-one ever feel incompetent?  Feeling inferior is just an occasional part of life for most people.  Every now and then, you may feel incompetent-- especially if you're constantly comparing yourself to others.  People have different levels of skill in the various areas of life.  Some people will take better photos than you, but you're going to have to learn to deal with it.  (It helps to remind yourself that you take better photos than someone else. (g))  Hey, a feeling of incompetency can sometimes even help you in the long-term by spurring you to better yourself.  (See?  You should be thanking those people who make you feel bad about yourself.)

...I sure hope I didn't just make anyone feel incompetent in the face of my superior ability to grump...

(Somewhat Grumpy) Letter on Photo-Editing

Dear Bossy-Britches People Who Write Disparagingly About Photo-Editing:

Who made you the Boss(es) of the World?  ;o)
Please not to lecture the rest of us about "honesty" or imply that "heavy" digital editing of photos is almost a sin.

I agree that editing can't fix everything.  However, if skillful editing takes a poor photo to the level of a presentable photo, where's the problem with that?  Who, exactly, is it hurting?  (Of course it's best-- and nicest-- to get a near-perfect photo right out of the camera, but I fail to see the problem if someone devotes the time, effort, and skill [yes, skill] it takes to improve a mediocre photo.)

Certainly there is such a thing as over-editing.  (I do it on purpose sometimes, myself, just for the fun of it.  ...And possibly I sometimes do it not on purpose.)  But seriously, who's to say what is over-edited?  Isn't that in the eye of the beholder?  Unless you're entering your photo in a contest or submitting it for critique to an instructor or a group of peers, chances are that no-one's going to come out and berate you for your obvious Photoshop addiction. ;o)

I think what really irks me about the way some people write about post-processing is the implication that editing is somehow inherently evil.  It's not.  I'm not a professional photographer, and I don't spend much any time hanging out on photography message boards, but I'm convinced that (by far) most professional photographers do post-process their work.  (Some more than others, of course.)  There's nothing deceitful about it.  It's merely part of the process of capturing and presenting an image.  Unless you're submitting work to a contest that specifically prohibits it-- or you're presenting a photo as "untouched"-- or in cases where extreme editing might damage its value (as in journalistic photos-- one of the few times I think "honesty" is an issue at all)-- I say you should go right ahead and do whatever you want.

It's not dishonest to clone something out of the photo.  It's not "bad form" to lighten, darken, cross-process-- whatever.  Go ahead and add filters-- all day long, if you like.  Layer multiple photos!  Stitch things together!  Put your mother as a baby into the crib beside your newborn son!  Who says the lines between "photography" and "digital art" have to be crisp, firm, and unwavering?  Photographers have been manipulating / post-processing / editing photos for almost as long as photos have been around--  long before Photoshop came along.  It's nothing new-- nothing scary-- and (usually) nothing nefarious.

I do hope you will at least consider my position before penning your next diatribe against so-called "heavy" photo editing.

Thanks so much!