Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chatting About Nothing in Particular

I woke early with a bad dream still echoing through my head, and I found I just couldn't get back to sleep.  (Don't you hate it when that happens?)  It's strange how latent worries and fears tend to rise to the surface when you lie awake in the middle of the night (or more often, early morning). Things that you can normally just push to the side are more presistent, and it seems impossible to clear your mind and let yourself drift off.  It is without doubt the most depressing time of day or night, so thank goodness most of us usually sleep right through it!

The downside of getting up a couple hours earlier than normal is that you catch yourself making lots more typos than usual!  Please excuse any that I may miss.

So, time for a little casual chit-chat, then.

- - - - - - -

I'm pretty sure the neighbor dogs moved in yesterday evening.  (That's because I saw them and-- just barely-- heard them barking.  So it's pretty good intel. (g))  You have to wonder what pets think when they are moved to a totally new location.  How long does it take before they consider the new place home?  Are they confused by the change, or do they simply accept it, because the rest of the "pack" is there? 

- - - - - - -

We walked over to my parents' house Monday afternoon/early evening.   (We were delivering one more T-post we'd found that they could use in their temporary fence for the dogs.)  I think it will be the last time I willingly walk until the seasons change.  That's partly because it's just too hot and/or humid this time of year to make walking pleasant.  (Donald may be crazy enough to go running in the summer, but I choose to get my exercise indoors!)  It's also because there are Things about in summer.

A few minutes after we arrived, Grandpa took his lawnmower (which happened to already be out) and started mowing the strip of land we'd just walked.  When he came back, he told us he'd just mowed over (i.e. killed) a water moccasin-- maybe 30 feet from where we'd been walking in some knee-high grass and weeds.

Ugh.  It's enough to make you shudder, think about what could have happened (pain, expense, infected wounds?--with quick access to a hospital, not likely death, thank goodness, but aren't those other things bad enough?), and resolve not to walk so much until later in the year!

I'm opposed to cottonmouths living in my general vicinity.  (And I guess I need to try the snake gun again so I'll be ready if one chooses to disregard that sentiment.  Sorry, snake-lovers, but I will be killing the venomous ones that venture onto our property, if I can manage it.)

- - - - - - -

My left hand still smells vaguely of vinegar this morning. 

No, it's not a new beauty/hand-softening regimen.  ;o)  No, I haven't started perfuming myself with vinegar, either.  (Good guess, though. (g))

What happened is this:  Yesterday afternoon, I cleaned and chopped a handful of fresh jalapeño peppers.  I did not wear gloves.  I briefly considered that option, but then I thought, "Nah, jalapeños aren't that hot.  It's not like these are habeneros."  As I worked-- and afterward-- I was fine, which only confirmed to me that jalapeños are not that bad. I washed my hands when I was done, of course, but didn't really give it a whole lot of thought.

It wasn't until later, when Donald arrived home and we were talking, that I began to notice a slight burning on the fingertips-- under the nails-- of my left hand.  (The right remained unscathed.  I'm sure this is because I held the knife in my right hand and used mostly my left to handle the peppers.)  The burning was very slight-- so much so that I absentmindedly used a fingertip to scratch an eyelid.  Instantly I realized that that had been a mistake, and I went to rinse off my eye immediately.*

Burning my eye confirmed my suspicion that this had something to do with the peppers, so I googled it and ended up reading a thread of all sorts of humorous and horrifying stories of jalapeño-based misery.  Some people didn't realize their hands were "contaminated" until after they'd gone to the bathroom, for instance.  One man didn't feel it himself, but his wife certainly did (. . .later that night).  Then there was the woman whose hands burned so badly-- just from jalapeños!-- that she went to an emergency clinic in search of relief.

Reading all that (and how it was so frequently a delayed reaction) made me a little afraid that this was only the beginning-- and by this time, the burning had increased somewhat-- so I tried a couple of the possible remedies I'd read about.  First, I soaked my fingertips in vinegar**.  Later, I took a piece of aloe vera plant and squished as much as I could of the gel under my nails.  Both provided temporary relief, but at least some of the stinging came back.  If it had been worse, I would've tried tomato sauce/paste next, but it just wasn't that bad, so I was able to ignore it.

Throughout the evening, I would periodically feel a slight flare-up of discomfort-- usually when I was using my left hand-- putting pressure on it by picking something up.  Even this morning, as I type, I occasionally feel a very mild tingle in the tip of a finger.  Just enough to remind me of yesterday and why I will never again risk worse burning by chopping peppers gloveless.

It seems that (as with most things) some people are more susceptible to small amounts of capsaicin than are others.  (Thus the man who didn't feel it but whose wife did-- and the number of people who wrote that they never feel it on their hands, but if they touch an eye or their mouth, they burn just as much as the next person.)  In any case, I think I'll take some precautions next time.  Some people wrote that latex gloves don't work, but that rubber gloves do.  I'll probably try rubber gloves next time, just to be on the safe side. . .

(Looking back into my dimmest memory, I think Mom may have warned me about the peppers when she passed them along to me. . . I guess I wasn't paying enough attention.  Shame on me!)

*At that point, it was impossible not to remember the story of how poor little Tonya had been playing with some ornamental peppers (unbeknownst to the adults).  I don't remember all the details, but I think that somehow her fingers started burning, so she put them in her mouth.  That made her mouth start to burn, so she started crying, which led to-- as you've probably guessed-- her putting her hands to her eyes and burning them, too!  Ouch!

**I read this morning that vinegar (like water) is ineffective at removing capsaicin.  (So my fingers are all vinegary for no good reason?  How rude!)  On the other hand, they list vegetable oil and Vaseline as being possibly useful.  Then again, this is Wikipedia I'm citing here, so, um, take it or leave it, pretty much.

- - - - - - -

I mentioned exercising indoors, before.  My current favorite indoor exercises (because I have more time to waste this morning) are all Wii-based.  (There's something both satisfying and amusing about using video games to be more physically active!)

Number one on the list is Gold Gym's Cardio Workout.  If you enjoy the boxing elements in other games (Wii Fit, EA Sports Active), you might want to give this one a look.  If on the other hand you hate the boxing elements, avoid this one like the plague, because that's pretty much all it is.  (g)  I liked the boxing, and I haven't been disappointed in this "game".  Just as EA Sports Active's boxing takes Wii Fit's version to the next level, so too does Cardio Workout.

Here are some points of interest about the game:
  • Though the game info says it works with the balance board, that's a bit misleading.  Only a couple of exercises use the balance board-- none of the actual workouts do.  Instead, you stand at a slight angle to the TV and are prompted to keep up a rhythm of shifting your balance from one foot to the other.  This helps keep your heartrate up.  At first, I found it kind of awkward-- partly because I thought you were supposed to be stepping each time.  You're not (unless they specifically tell you to do so).  You just shift your balance from the front foot to the back foot and vice versa, at a decent pace. If you're doing this to get a workout, you really need to try to keep up with the balance shifting.  I'm sure it makes a huge difference in how much work it is.
  • For most of the workouts (or at least the ones I'm familiar with-- because I haven't tried them all, yet), you're "just standing there".  They don't ask you to do any kicks or steps-- just shift your balance and throw punches.  As you work your way up in difficulty, they add in "ducking" (like quick squats) and "weaving", and later on, they do incorporate quick steps to the side or forward and backward.  For someone like me, though, even the ones with just ducking are a pretty good workout. (The first couple times I did those, I could definitely tell the next day that I'd been working those specific muscles.  Now, the fact that I don't feel sore the next day tells me that I've made some progress.)
  • If you're like me, you'll probably have a little problem getting some of the punches to register.  There are (I think) three different types of punches.  Jab and cross ("1,2") are the easiest-- just straightforward punches like the ones used in Wii Fit.  Then there are hooks (left and right) and uppercuts (again, left and right).  Try not to despair if you find yourself shouting at the TV, "I did it!  I made that punch!  Why aren't you giving me credit, you miserable piece of--?!" -- Ahem.  As I was saying, don't give up if you have trouble getting punches to "count".  It does get easier with practice. 
  • The music. . . One of the parts of the game I haven't been thrilled with is the music selection.  They have a fair number of songs to choose from, but they're mostly very. . . video-gamey.  It's probably hard for game designers to find music that everyone will like, but still. . . There's always the option to turn down the music and play your own instead.  I just wonder if the beat/rhythm of the music you play might throw you off.  Maybe the ones included in the game all have the same beat.  (I haven't paid that much attention to them, honestly.)
  • You earn points for every workout you do, based in part on how well you do.  (You get a bonus if you have a "perfect" workout-- no missed moves-- which makes it even more annoying when the Wii doesn't register one of your punches. (g))  The game keeps up with your points not only so you can track your progress, but also so you can "go shopping".  Punches/points translate into "gold", which you use to purchase new clothes for your mii.  I think that part of the game is a little bit pointless, but I guess it might be more of a motivator for other people.  Some might be motivated just by the desire to earn enough gold to buy every single item possible.  Personally, I'd be more interested if there were new songs or workouts for sale in the shop. . . You do earn/unlock new music, workouts, instructors, and-- get this-- clothing for your instructors, just by putting in the time/punches.  (Periodically you'll get a notice that you've unlocked something new.)  So you can change not only your own mii's clothes, but also those of your instructor.  There are several instructors from which to choose, by the way.  I think they have different voices and say slightly different things during workouts, but it's not something I've given a lot of thought.  (g)
. . . Wow, I rambled a lot about that game!  (And there's still so much more I could say.  But don't worry-- I won't.)  The other two I've been using lately I'll just mention briefly.

Dance Dance Revolution: Disney Grooves.  We chose this one because it came with two dance mats, so we could play simultaneously.  I've seen some complain that the routines aren't sufficiently difficult.  To them, I stick out my tongue, because they must be in much better physical condition than I am.  It's difficult enough, trust me, and I'm just playing on the "Difficult" level-- not "Expert".  It's certainly enough to give you a little exercise.  I think I have to "dance" longer than I have to "box" to get the same kind of results-- at least it feels longer-- but it's nice for a little of a change. 

Wii Fit (Free Step).  I haven't used this one as much as the other two, but I think that's going to change.  This is nice for a lower impact workout, and I like that I can be watching whatever I want on TV (or listening to my own music) while I do it, yet I still get credit in the game for exercising.  (g)  I know it's not much different than if I just went for a walk around the house (or, well, outside-- but that's just crazy-talk), but I'm more likely to do it if I'm getting points for it, so in a way there is a difference.  Also, because it's "just walking", I think it will be easy to talk myself into doing it, even on days I don't really feel like exercising.  (That's the plan, anyway.)

- - - - - - -

 Well, time to go start the day for real!  :o)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

For All You Bargain-Hunters Out There. . .

Have I got a deal for you!

After I showed Donald (a magazine-mention of) some towel hooks that sell for about $178 a pair, we looked up their website and were rewarded with this little gem:
That's a $200* toilet brush, right there. 

I'll wait while you all rush over to order one. . . (I only dared share it now that we've placed our own order, of course.)  

Some might say that $200 is a bit much to pay for a toilet brush, but this is a quality Danish design.  And you'll really get your money's worth in no time at all, because of the incredible performance-power of this particular toilet brush.  You really can't afford not to buy one of these beauties.   You have to spend money to make money. . . or. . . er. . . something like that. . .

*Ok, so it's actually $199-- not $200.  And you get FREE SHIPPING.  Yeah, the shipping had better be free if I'm dropping nearly $200 on something I'll be sticking in the toilet.  Of course, the type of person who has nearly $200 to spend on an extravagant toilet brush is probably not the kind who worries about shipping costs. . . Oh well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific"

I read about this on Cake Wrecks today (of all places). . .

Apparently scientists are using Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men (a cologne) to attract jaguars (for research purposes) in the jungles of Guatemala. 

The important lesson here is do not wear Calvin Klein's Obsession for Men in the Guatemalan jungle (or anywhere else jaguars are likely to be lurking).  

I've read that perfumes may attract some insects-- bees, mosquitoes-- but I hadn't given a lot of thought to the possibility that it might even attract larger animals. 

Come to think of it, though, maybe I have heard about perfumes drawing bears. . . and one quick google later-- yes!  Experts advise hikers to avoid not only perfumes (or perfumed lotions) when hiking, but even scented sunscreens!  Makes you wonder if you shouldn't bathe for a day or two before hiking. ;o)  Ok, not really, but some soaps and shampoos have a pretty potent perfumy smell. . .

Maybe I'll just stay home and leave the hiking to someone else. . .  (g)

Oh, man. . .

"[Milwaukee] County Supervisor who supports boycott doesn't know that Arizona borders Mexico":

How embarrassing!  You have to wonder, though, if this woman is intelligent enough to even realize how idiotic she just made herself look. . .

Even if you're no good with geography, take a minute to "google Arizona" (as she herself mentions doing) and make sure your brilliant observation about the state's border situation is accurate.  It's really not that hard.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All the Tweets That're Fit to Print!

In this age of Twitter and Facebook, instant feedback is king.  Even for the more reluctant (such as myself), it is fascinating (not to mention addictive) to see what people around the world are thinking and saying right now.  (Unfortunately, this knowledge often doesn't do much for your faith in humanity, but that's another matter entirely.)

As always, people are jostling to keep up with the times.  No-one wants to be left behind.  This carries over into the business world, too.  Which is fine.  It's just one more way to keep in touch with customers and let everyone know what you do and how well you do it. 

And then there's the local news. 

I don't know if this is happening everywhere, but I suspect it's a widespread phenomenon.  At least one of our local news channels makes a habit of incorporating into their stories the tweets and Facebook comments of random people who respond to the channel's own tweets and Facebook writings.  This inclusion would seem to indicate that the news writers think these comments are newsworthy.  You might be surprised how rarely this is the case (or then again, maybe you wouldn't be).  Instead, what you get is a telegraphic version of the old "sound off" columns in your average small-town newspaper.  It's pointless.  It's not even news!

Here's a good example of what I'm talking about. There's a story about a benefit concert that's going to take place soon.  The tickets were available for free, and apparently they disappeared within ten minutes of becoming available (only to pop up later for sale on eBay, etc.). 

Part of the story went as follows:
Shortly after posting that the tickets were gone on [news channel]'s Facebook page, several viewers vented their frustrations.

[Random Local Male] commented: "grrrrrrrr I wanted tickets." 

[Random Local Female] added: "Many of us southerners who waited for hours online only to miss out on tickets are extremely pissed...."
Wow, that's some earth-shattering news, right there.  I 'specially liked the "grrrrrrrr" part.  ;o) Why not just write that people were upset that they didn't get a chance at a ticket, only to find them snapped up by people who intend to profit by them?  (Is it even necessary to say that much?  It seems fairly obvious.)

I don't know why this is so particularly irritating to me.  It's not that much different from the silly polls they've been doing for years.  I suppose it's not even worse than when they go out and interview people at random, trying to get "reaction" to this or that story.  But for whatever reason, it just elicits my very best eye roll.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Shop early & SAVE!"

In my e-mail in-box this morning there was an ad from a fabric store with the title "Shop early & SAVE!  Christmas Cottons $1.99 yd.". . . And then later on in the e-mail, "Christmas in June SALE!"

"Shop early and SAVE!"-- Well, they weren't kidding about the "early" part, at least! 

I know you need to shop early if you're to have time to get your holiday sewing (or other crafting) projects done in time to enjoy them "in season"-- in fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to start working on a few things, myself-- but who wants to buy Christmas prints in June? 

In a month or two, the stores will be putting out their Christmas decorations.   It's that time of the year!  Or, well, not really that time of the year at all. . . but they seem to think it is.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bullet Point List

Things from 'round here.
  • This week, Donald bought a "snake tamer", a small shotgun specially designed for snake-sized problems.  (Of course, it can cause some damage to non-snake-sized problems, too, so potential violent intruders beware.) 
    • We did a little practice shooting the evening we got it.  It was my first time firing anything more powerful than an air rifle, and I have to admit, even that relatively small kick was enough to rattle me a little.  After one shot, I was done for the night.  I definitely need more practice, as I wasn't aiming correctly and ended up shooting holes in the leaves of one of our satsuma trees instead of "killing" the cardboard snake target.  Eek.  I feel jittery just remembering it.  (I will improve, though, intruders, so stay away.)
    • What prompted us to finally go ahead and get a gun for snakes was that a couple weeks ago our neighbor down the easement came to show us a sizable rattlesnake he'd shot not far from our yard.  I think he had this same kind of "snake gun". . . and I believe it's similar to the one my parents have, too.
  • The continuing oil leak in the Gulf is big news around here, as you might expect.  Some of those beaches you keep hearing about in the local news?  That's where my family used to go for Saturday afternoons of playing in the sand and searching for seashells.  I remember Friday nights parked in the car, eating pizza, listening to the radio, and watching the water, then taking a moonlit walk just out of reach of the waves.  I go through phases of anger, sadness, and disgust over it, even though at the moment it seems unlikely to affect us directly.  We don't live on the beach.  We rarely even go to the beach, these days. We don't earn a living from the Gulf or tourism, directly.  Still, I'm sure it will have a domino effect on the local economy, and some of our family may suffer financially, even if we don't. . . If nothing else, I care about the beaches that are woven through my memories of growing up in this place, and I want them to stay as much the same as possible, for future generations to enjoy.  I believe that the area will recover-- with any luck, sooner than many predict-- but I don't think it's possible for anyone to know all the damage that's being done.  I think it will be years before I'll feel that the beach and seafood is as safe (as far as toxins go) as it was before, no matter what the "experts" may say. 
  •  My Project 365 is still creeping along at a snail's pace.  I will finish it, imperfect though it is, but I don't think I'll try to do it again-- not right away, at least.  I think I take and post photos less spontaneously than I did before I started.  Most of my photos these days tend to be halfhearted and fairly boring.  If I could ever just catch up to the current photo of the day, I think the project would be more interesting.  It's hard to feel excited about taking a photo that I "can't" even post until I work my way through two or three weeks of old photos.  I need to take an evening or weekend afternoon and just plow through the backlog of photos. 
  • Did I mention that we've painted the kitchen?  I can't even remember. . . Well, we did.  We bought the paint back before we had visitors. . . which was. . . in March?  Anyway, it had been a while, and I guess I had kind of. . . forgotten what color paint we'd bought.  (I know.)  I had been remembering it as a slightly goldenish almondy color.  Not so!  It was much more golden and much less almond than I'd recalled.  Not almond at all, in fact.
    • When we start painting, I like it well enough, though Im startled to find my memory has been so wrong.  Still, it looks rich and warm compared to the pale lemony yellow we originally painted the kitchen (soon after the house was built).  Pale lemony yellow can be nice, too-- but that tint had always tended to look a little more greenish than we'd expected, and it was so pale that there wasn't a pleasing contrast with the new, white beadboard wainscoting.  We wanted something to make the white "pop", and this new color certainly does that. . .
    • By the time we've finished painting, I've begun to wonder what we were thinking when we chose this color and why isn't the paint almond like I'd remembered?!  In certain light, the paint feels greenish-mustardy-yuck (if such a color is even possible), and I begin to suspect that I hate it with a fierce and passionate loathing.  
    • Donald suggests we should just paint it a different color altogether, if I am that unhappy with it, because paint is fairly cheap.
    • I suggest that it would be ridiculous to do so until we've waited to see what it's really like, because ok, it looks better now, so maybe that was just some really bad lighting before. . . 
    • But on the other hand, why is this not almond?  Why did we choose this color at the last minute?  After months of looking at aquas-- then weeks of looking at sand and almond colors-- why had we gone psycho at the last moment and chosen this goldy, macaroni and cheese color?  WHY? I HATE MACARONI AND CHEESE COLOR (like we have in the office... which I guess is ok for an office, but definitely NOT for our kitchen/breakfast room)!!  Macaroni and cheese color should die a slow, torturous death!!!
    • Donald argues that we considered this color longer than I seem to remember us doing, then demonstrates that it's not the hated macaroni and cheese color, but says that if I really hate it that much, we should just repaint.  It won't take that long.  Look, the masking tape's even still up-- all the countertops are cleared.  Let's go get the paint chips out again and get an almond color--
    • No, that would be a waste of time and money.  We have to at least give this color a try first.  Ok, see?  It looks better with this lighting. . . And once I put some things on the walls, it won't be so overwhelming. . . Maybe some aqua or blue touches will balance it out. . .
    • (And so on and so forth.)  
    • Well, we kept the paint, and it's grown on me.  Donald thinks maybe it looks different now than it did when we first painted, as though it's shifted a bit after drying more permanently or something.  I'm doubtful that it's changed.  I think we've just gotten used to it. . . and it was never really bad to begin with.  It was just such a shocking contrast from what I'd been picturing for months. I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself for making such a big deal over the color of paint, but oh well.  It seemed important at the time.  I'd promise never to overreact again, but I doubt I could keep my word.  
    •  There will be before and after photos, once the "after" is done.  We still have crown molding to put up-- just a narrow bit to match what's on the kitchen cabinetry-- and wall art / hooks / etc. . . . and curtains. . . and oh yeah, I still need to paint the kitchen cabinets white.  Maybe I'll show "before and in-progress" photos.   If I wait until "after" photos are ready, there's no telling when you'll see them!
    •  It's only the beginning of summer (despite the fact that Sweden will be celebrating "midsommar" next weekend), but I'm already tired of summertime heat and humidity.  There's really not much more to say about it than that.  It's hot.  It's sticky.  It's thundery almost every afternoon (seems like).  Grass and weeds grow so fast you can almost see them shooting up before your eyes, and this is the heyday of the snake and the insect.  In brief, it's just not my favorite time of year.  Let the countdown to October begin!