Thursday, November 30, 2006

Love…hate…love…hate…

I love Microsoft Access. It is so easy to use, and makes smaller data manipulation projects go ever-so quickly! Somebody gives you a bunch of line items in ASCII format with vague instructions to ‘merge this with that and get it back to me’, and Access stands ready to assist you.

I also hate it, because sometimes it refuses to open a simple ASCII file without telling you why. ‘Invalid argument’ is not helpful, Access. You old cow!

But I love it, because it’s easy to just open a new table and copy the data straight into it from, say, Excel – which has no problem opening the ASCII file. I’ll just Create table by entering data and…

I hate Access. Invalid argument my great grandma’s penny loafers!

No problem, though. I can just link the tables. Don’t really have to import them, you see how cool Access is? Link…OK, works fine. Now I’ll hook the two sources together and output the…invalid argument.

Whaaaaaaat? @*^&@ing Access!!

OK. OK. I can get around this. I’ll…I’ll make a new, blank table, and I’ll parse the data in line by line through a visual basic routine (she said, confidently – visual basic and I are actually not very good friends). That way, when I hit whatever it’s choking on, I’ll know the precise line. Create table in design view…invalid argument.

What the…(try again, and again, and again, because I know I’m not passing any arguments so obviously if I just keep repeating the same, exact action eventually it will do what I expect it to do instead of giving me this inane error) (no, it doesn’t actually work…but for some reason, I keep having faith that someday, it will)

And then, about the fifth time I’m hitting CREATE @*^&@*ING TABLE IN @*^&@*^ING DESIGN VIEW!!!!!!, it occurs to Your Faithful Correspondent in a bolt of light from above that she is being a twit. Something is obviously pooched in this database. Some handler somewhere didn’t unhand the handle it was handling, and the dumb thing is…confused.

Time for a little trick I like to call, Compact and Repair Database.

Tools…Database Utilities…Compact and Repair Database.

Invalid argument.

You. Old. Witch. **sigh** Click OK.

…database status bar fills, database briefly closes and triumphantly reopens.

Your Faithful Correspondent hesitates a moment, and then…clicks on Create table in design view…

Behold, the glory which is the design view. And the glory which is not having to use it, because now the import function has no issue at all with my source file, even if it is just a lowly ASCII file.

I love Access.

That is, when I don’t hate it…

Serene Celebrations

One of my pet peeves about the holidays is the way that something allegedly designed to be a break from normal life stresses, the joyous celebration of life and renewal and getting through it all together, somehow turns into a kind of sick experiment: Just how much stress can the average person take before they dissolve into a gibbering glob of goo on their kitchen floor?

The DailyOM has an article about this very topic, Serene Celebrations: Avoiding Holiday Stress. I particularly love this bit:

Try to remember that you are unique, which means that your holiday experience need not conform to that of your parents, your neighbors, or the simulated families you see in the media.

Man, if we could just manage that much, think how much better it would be! If we could just manage to be OK with what we can do, and let everybody else be OK with what they can do, and not take or give stress to or from anybody else…maybe we really could have a merry $HOLY_DAY.

Bad hair, dusty mantels, lumpy mashed potatoes and all.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

CALL ME!!!!!

There’s a friend of mine who has just started a Mary Kay business. And she has asked me about putting together a party. She’s asked me more than once. I’ve done the verbal tap dance around the subject. I believe I may have faked a heart attack once to avoid discussing the whole thing.

Because, see, the last time I tried to throw a ‘try-n-buy’ party it was a Pampered Chef a few years ago. I invited eight other women, all of whom said they’d just love to, oh shriek, oh giggle, what fun! And when I called to remind them a couple days before, only one said, “Oh, drat, I won’t be making it.” The rest were still shrieking and giggling and saying they couldn’t wait.

Guess how many of them actually showed up.

That’s right! Zero! None! It was me, and Lyla the Pampered Chef Rep (and an awful lot of snack foods), and that was it.

I still have nightmares. Lyla, sitting there, looking at me with big, mournful eyes, like, “Uuuuuh…so. Here we are.” And asking me, twice, if I had remembered to remind people.

So I’m a little nervy about having parties. I am, apparently, still that dork people like to ditch. I envision those other eight women sitting around the coffee shop having a good laugh about me and my pathetic attempts to have a Pampered Chef party.

Of course, I was able to at least make it worth her drive, because Me + Groovy Cooking Utensils = SALE!

But I don’t do makeup, really. I have odd, randomly-sensitive skin – sometimes, I can wear a rot gut product (Try new Blurb! Now, with REAL LYE!!) without any harm done, other times I’ll put something specifically designed to be ‘safe for sensitive skin’ and end up with blisters all over my face.

So. I try new skincare very cautiously. One new product at a time, and give it a few solid hours to start itching / burning / peeling the skin off my face in large sheets.

I figured I could try to put together a party anyway. I could buy things for other people. I could…I dunno…maybe Mary Kay makes pajamas, nice safe pajamas, I could buy a pair of pajamas or something. Or if I were in a herd of other women, maybe my friend wouldn’t notice that I didn’t buy anything OR allow her to put anything on my face. I’d go hide in the kitchen and pretend it took four hours to make coffee, making the occasional wise-crack through the open door so they’d remember that I was there.

I’m resourceful. I’d think of something.

My friend had said I should ask other moms at the school. OK, I said bravely, to myself. I can do this. Surely they won’t all flake on me. I’ll just invite, like, six hundred of them. Then I might get one or two who actually show up.

Like the great Indian tracker that I am (ahem), I stalked my prey. I had The Perfect Person© in my crosshairs: Her son is in the same class as mine, so there’s a bond there, right? And she’s one of those ‘put together’ types, who wears makeup and wears it well, and I thought gee. Maybe she’d be the type who would like a girly-girl party thing with makeup. Gee! Maybe she’d even know a few other gals who would like to attend! Because she’s pretty! And does the makeup ‘thing’! And she’s very social and stuff!! Maybe she’s got other pretty, made-up friends who could bring a couple friends…

So I snuck up behind her and, before she could get away, fired off my cosmetic-party question. WOULD she be interested in coming to my place for a Mary Kay party, my friend, yadda yadda blah blah long story here.

And then I waited for her to wince and stutter and then tell me that she’d love to, naturally, only GEE, she JUST REMEMBERED…she was moving to Podunk next week.

But instead, she says, enthusiastically, “Oh, the parties are SO MUCH FUN! You will love-love-love it!”

Anybody else already going, “uh-oh”? Cause I wasn’t, I was just kind of jazzed that she didn’t scream in horror and flee.

So I’m standing there feeling great because hot dog – maybe I was right! Maybe she can help me actually put together an actual party with actual warm, living human bodies and it could be fun and stuff!

She starts quizzing me. Where is my friend based? Is she local? Is she, you know, here in town? How long has she been at it, blah blah blah…chat chat chat…and dummy over here is just going right along with it all…

…and then…
…she said…
…BRIGHTLY!...

“You know, it’s sometimes better if you have a local representative...”

My stomach took a sudden jump towards my toenails. I saw it coming. I realized, in a flash of !TOO LATE! insight, what was about to come out of her mouth.

“Here’s my card! And a sample! Wait! I have more in my car!! Sensitive skin! No problem! CALL ME! Guaranteed not to burn, char or mangle your face in any way! You’ll love this! And that! Here! Let me give you this one CALL ME! And that, it’s PINK! CALL ME!! And this! And that! You WILL see the difference in three days I GUARANTEE IT and here’s one with a ribbon on it CALL ME!! ANYTIME!!!!!!!”

I feel as though I stumbled into a cult meeting and made the mistake of leaving my driver’s license behind as I fled…they know where I live.

I’m being stalked. Stalked, I tell you! The hunter has become the hunted. I think I am the only woman in all the town who is not selling something out of my car. The only woman in the whole county who doesn’t have a Suburban’s worth of cheerfully-beribboned white bags in my trunk. Guaranteed to cure your ugly in three days – CALL ME!!!!

I had no idea how many bizarre things women sell all over this town, door to door, word of mouth, tell your friends, have a party, CALL ME!!! And I have no idea how I was managing to stay under their radar all these years…but I’ve blown that.

Big time.

Madame Mary Kay accepted my ‘look, I’m sorry, but IF I were to start buying Mary Kay stuff, I really would buy it from my friend, bonds of loyalty and all that’ with a fair amount of grace. And the reminder that, in an emergency, she was right there for me.

(Excuse me, ‘emergency’? Um, OK, I’m purdy ig’ner’int on such matters [see ‘don’t really do the makeup thing’ comment above], but I’m sitting here trying to think how the words ‘makeup’ and ‘emergency’ can go together. Unless, in my case, it is ‘Quick! Get me soap and water! This stuff is blistering my eyelids!’, in which case, more makeup is not what I need.) (I’m serious – I once had eye shadow blister my eyelids. Wee little white blisters, all over them. And YES!!! It hurt!!!!!!)

But guess what.

There are four other mothers at this center who are likewise consultants for assorted cosmetics and whatnot. Avon, Amway, some ‘shadow plus’ thing that I can’t really tell you anything about. I think it had to do with eye shadow, a monthly club or something. I didn’t really catch the particulars, because I was backpedaling toward the door during the spiel, joggling Captain Adventure up and down in the hopes that he’d puke and give me an easy way out of the conversation.

Which he refused to do. He just laughed charmingly, waved at her, and sang out, “Bye bye! Bye bye!”, thus giving Shadow Mom the ability to chase me into the street cooing, “Oh, isn’t he the cutest thing ever? Itsy-oopsie-cutsie-wootsie…Here’s my card! And a sample! Take two! CALL ME!!!”

Dratted kids, they’ll never puke when you really need them to.

Plus Also, there is an Army of Self Employed Consultants over at Eldest’s school, all of whom have now heard through the grapevine that I am a potential victim client.

“Oh, I heard that {Eldest, Danger Mouse, Boo Bug, Captain Adventure}’s mom is going to have a Mary Kay party”, they say, casually in passing (or with malice aforethought, thinking to get the Army off their own behinds by handing them mine).

And they’re OFF. Hounds after the fox! Ta-ROO! Ta-ROO!

They know my kids, my van, and DAMN IT, I think one of them followed me home and took note of my address to share around the Army water cooler, because one of them just sort of turned up on my porch one afternoon.

“Hi, I’m Such-n-So’s mom, he goes to School with your Eldest? Ha ha, yes, small talk about playdates and OH BY THE WAY, here’s a sample of my AMAZING LAUNDRY DETERGENT! He3, He4, front load, top load, SIDE LOAD whatever you’ve got I can handle it CALL ME!!!!!”

Laundry soap, people. She sells laundry soap. In a variety of scents, hypo-allergenic, guaranteed to make me sneeze violently! CALL HER!!!!

I may suffocate beneath the weight of the free sample bags. All brightly wrapped with festive bows. Manicures! Parties! We sell the purest manure in Hicksville, GUARANTEED! Invite your friends! Invite your enemies! From Creative Memories to Amway, everybody who sells anything out of their garage is all over me like a flock of ducks swarming a single June bug.

Resistance is futile…you will be assimilated…

I am done for, friends. The Army of the Self-Employed have found me out, and are mobilizing to destroy me.

However, if you’d like to purchase any of the product lines mentioned above, or shoot, any other product line sold by ‘independent consultants’, hey. I’ll hook you up. I know people who know people.

CALL ME!!!!!

Mr. Jerk, Revisited at length

OK, I got too long-winded for the comment box. Again. But, it’s hard to explain why we’re not all that up in arms about this guy in fifty words or less.

I’m not saying he was right in any of his actions, but I really don’t think he meant any of the havoc. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know Captain Adventure and I were even there. We sort of popped into view after he had backed into us; before I came winging out from behind the van, we were behind two layers of privacy glass and a pair of drawn shades.

I think what he thought was, some leather-jacket clad punk is sitting in a junker van blocking his exit and paying no attention at all. He starts his truck and throws ‘er in reverse. Still, the van is not moving. The guy is just sitting there, looking away from him. (The husband was looking at me, but it probably looked like he was watching the traffic on the throughway.)

Now, most of us at this point would honk, which he did. Van doesn’t budge. He begins doing this ‘rrrooom-rrrrrooom’ backing up thing, like a kid in a sports car at a red light. Which was darned silly, considering his age – I’d call it mid-fifties-ish.

Maybe he really never intended to hit us. Maybe he was just rrrrooom-rrooming and rrroooomed a little too far. I doubt it, I think he fully intended to give us a good, hard bump…but I really don’t believe he intended to do any actual damage to the van. There wasn’t so much as a disturbed layer of mud on his truck, but he hit our van right on her weakest point, that flamin’ stupid brittle plastic.

This is the stuff I’ve been complaining about for what, two years now? The stuff that pops off all the time? The stuff that has begun cracking spontaneously all over the place?

Yeah, that.

He hits it and CRACK! Thar she blows, big old messy mess-mess. It’s obvious. You can see it from a block away. Can’t miss it. At this point, you’ve got know the guy is already getting that ‘aw, crap’ feeling in his gut.

And then !SURPRISE!

I popped out from behind the van clutching Captain Adventure in my arms yelping, “What are you doing?!” as my husband yowled out, “Hey! Why did you just RAM us?! My wife is unloading the baby!”

I think he flat-out panicked. He got hit with two crises (and two freaked out parents) at once, and his wires just shorted out. The situation changed drastically in an instant, from ‘showing some punk I mean business’ to ‘holy crap, I just hit a Family Van’. Specifically, it was the moment he saw Captain Adventure in the mix that he went all goob on us, with the screaming and carrying on.

Not the best way to handle it, certainly, but…well. If you’ve ever seen a rat caught in a glue trap…that was this guy. Hissing, snarling, defiant, and terrified right down to his wee little scrabbling claws.

If I thought he had been, you know, thinking before he acted, if he knew there were kids on board and didn’t care, or knew he was going to crack a big old hole in my van’s trim…it would be different. If the damage were more intense, or if it were my impending new minivan that had been hit, then yes. I’d already be at the body shop.

But as it is, eh. What would I buy? Nothing added to the trade in value. Hassle. Headaches. And for what? To…let him know what’s what? To give him a good slap on the wrist?

See, I don’t really think it would do anything. It wouldn’t even make me feel better about the whole thing. I don’t think it would be the defining moment, when the light goes on in his head and he says, “Oh, dearie me! What a jerk I’ve been! From this day forth, I shall go out among my fellow creatures and do good!” and then go singing off, sprinkling flower petals in his wake.

If anything, I suspect it would deepen his anger and resentment toward the world in general. Just a guess, but I think he’s one of those types who always thinks everybody else is the jerk, and he’s just the poor, wronged guy trying to do his best.

Jerks are often like that. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. Somebody behaves like a jerk, and what do the rest of us do? We want to give him a good hard smack-down for it. Of course we do! It’s only natural! And if we manage to get a pound of flesh out of him, we go our way thinking, “Ha! Told him what’s what! That’s right! Jerk! I hope he’s learned his lesson!”

But of course, the lesson Mr. Jerk learned was that he was right. People are mean and out to get him, they suck and he has to come out of his corner fighting, each and every day, if he’s going to get what he deserves.

It’s a wicked cycle to be stuck in. Pitiful, really. It’s hard to feel sorry for these people when they’re up in your face calling you names because you splashed coffee on their raincoat, but upon reflection…what a sad, sorry kind of life to be leading.

I really feel that if he’s the type of person able to learn lessons around these things, it started knocking on the door the moment he started to panic, realizing that he had just started something he didn’t intend to start. It’s his choice, he can consider this a ‘lucky escape, better not do that again’ or a ‘ha ha, got away with it’.

Either choice bears it own punishment or reward.

And that’s enough Gandhi-izing for one day. Just wait, you guys – something really funny happened at daycare recently. Well. Funny in a ‘oh, CRAP!’ kind of way, but still…it gets funnier the more time passes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wild oats

Administrative Note: Jan, I went to look up the part where you get a deduction for sales tax on major purchases and guess what I learned?! You don’t get it anymore. My tax planning software apparently missed that little detail and was cheerfully suggesting I look for major purchases in 2006 to deduct. Stupid programmers.

In 2004 and 2005, you were able to deduct sales tax instead of state income tax. We did take the deduction last year on the Civic, but this year? Outta luck, but thanks for playing.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled idle moment of “Whaaaaaaat?”…

I realized I was hungry. You know, in that idle way you sometimes get between a perfectly good lunch and dinnertime.

I wanted a snack. Just a little something to keep me from chewing on my desk, which is both unsanitary and leaves marks which are hard to explain to visitors.

Let’s see, what’ve I got lying around the Den here...

Crackers? Naw.
Cookies? Eh, no.
Halloween candy raid? Negative that
Mocha? Nope. (Maybe later.)
Bag of marshmallows? Eeeeeeeeeeh {thinks about it, but…} no.
Peanut butter crackers? Animal cookies? Chez-Its? Block of Brie? Bottle of wine? Orange juice and rum? ICE CREAM!?

Hey, waitasecond!

Oatmeal!

One cup water, one handful raisins, half a cup raw oatmeal + Heat + five minutes = Snacktime.

Wait.

What just happened here?

Did I just pass up a laundry list of perfectly good junk food for oatmeal?!

Oh, $DEITY. They said this day would come…but I never believed them!!

Surreal, and oddly timely

Methinks the new minivan will be arriving very, very soon. First of all, I’ve wanted one for a long time and in keeping with my Not A New Year’s Resolution (because I don’t do those), I want to get something for me-me-me. AND YES! I’m springing extra for heated front seats and remote keyless entry. Oh yeah. And the rear shut the heck up already entertainment system, for the Denizens.

I may demand the dealer throw in one of those big fancy red ribbons for the top. And I’ll make my husband drive it home while I race ahead in a cab, rush inside and call all the neighbors so they can come outside and watch on the curb as if it were the Macy’s parade coming to town. Then I’ll make him take me outside with his hands over my eyes and pretend to be ever so surprised, and maybe jump up and down and cry a lot.

Oh darling, however did you know?! {sob sob sob}

Secondly, the van has begun revealing that it is about as far removed from ‘safe’ as a vehicle can get and still legally drive on our freeways. We’ve got broken seatbelts, we’ve got replacement seatbelts that don’t really fit right, and recently discovered that the bolts that were used to secure the back bench to the chassis are too small, rusting, and likely to shear off if any real pressure were applied.

Having seen about eleventy-nine too many stories about children being hurt, killed, or otherwise mangled in various horrific ways lately, I may be a tad on the overprotective side right now. If I could get a vehicle with tough little protective pods capable of seeing the children through atmospheric reentry, I suspect I’d be willing to shell out the cash for it.

With bonus points if they could be worn outside the vehicle - say, oh, I don't know...everywhere the children went. "Put on your protective pod, Billy!" "Aw, ma, do I hafta?! None of the OTHER kids hafta.." "Well, maybe the OTHER KIDS don't have mothers who LOVE THEM like you do. Now, PUT ON THE POD!!!!"

So the rear passenger curtain air bags alone were enough to give me a shudder of delight – Behemoth basically relies on sheer size for protection. As in, “Nobody could possibly hit this van accidentally! Lookit how HUGE she is! You could never ‘not see’ this van!!”

Heh heh. Yeah. Funny story there. Which I will tell you in a moment.

And finally, we have a tax situation this year. I’m looking for deductions, people. If we’re going to be buying the thing soon anyway, let’s get it done before the end of the year so I can take the deduction.

But still, being me…I was stuck in ‘ponder’ mode. Until a very surreal vote was cast in the ‘just replace it already’ column.

We got hit in the parking lot yesterday. The guy rammed us. Not ‘backed into us’, not ‘oops, thought it was the brake’. He got pissed off because we were blocking him (I was unloading Captain Adventure in front of the pediatricians office, for Pete’s sake!), threw it in reverse and slammed into us.

Surreal, people, surreal.

Then, he claimed, in rapid succession, that we were:

1. Parked in a no parking zone (we were not – in point of fact, we were in the logical unloading zone for the medical office)

2. Had pulled up behind him after he had already begun backing out (nooooooo, I saw you walking up to your truck as I was beginning to unbuckle Captain Adventure – I also saw you look RIGHT AT US and frown as you were getting in) (And also, you honked at us, hesitated about half a second, then rammed us – which was why we naturally assumed at first it was a case of ‘oops, wrong pedal’ rather than ‘@^*&@^!!!!!!!’)

3. @*^&@*^&@!!!!!!! (Dude. Is that the mouth you kiss your mother with?!)

4. That WE hit HIM. (By…uh…levitating our two and one half ton van…sideways?!)

5. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, that we had snuck up behind him. This is where the whole thing just took a major turn into Truth is Funnier Than Fiction.

Yes, that’s right! A 9’ high, 17.5’ long, 6.5’ wide van conversion snuck up behind him. It was so hard to see this mammoth vehicle behind him!!

Which of course begs the question: what chance does, say, a cyclist or a pedestrian have around this guy? Because brother, that van can be seen with the nekkid eye from space. Even if you were looking in front of you, you couldn’t have missed the van – it took up vast amounts of real estate in the black windows you were facing!!

Dang, man. Forget the meds this morning, or what?! Or perhaps we were visiting the opthmatologist?

He also responded to anything my husband said with a howl of, “SHUT YOUR !@*^&@(*O^&@ing MOUTH!!!!”

Breaking News! Mt. St. Asshat erupts in local pediatric office parking lot!!!! Film at eleven.

The police were summoned (!) and, while they don’t really do the personal damage thing, were of enormous help in just settling Mt. St. Asshat down a bit. Although he still flew into a blasphemous tirade whenever my husband tried to say anything.

Now that I’ve harshed all over him…honestly? I feel very sorry for this guy. You know how sometimes, there’s a conversation going on under the conversation? Like, someone is saying, “!!!!!!”, and you’re hearing my life is in the crapper right now and this was just one straw too many and I snapped and now I’ve done something incredibly stupid and I don’t know how to get out of it so I’m going to scream and yell and do a little primate dance, fling some verbal feces at the spectators and hope it just goes away?

This is kind of what I’m feeling. He was kind of pitiful, and all I’ve got for him is pity.

Anyway, he managed to do an impressive amount of damage to the stupid plastic molding on the side of the van. Initial guesstimate from the van company is about $2800 for the parts (custom job, you know) (argh), plus many weeks of waiting around while the plastic is flown in from Plasticotamia and custom molded to fit our neither metric nor English van.

Seriously. Parts for this van do not work with either system of measurement. It’s like…well. I guess in Plasticotamia, they use the Plastoitric system of measurement. Because nobody has been able to repair so much as a radio knob on that stupid vehicle without having to either jury-rig a solution, or get the tooling shipped from Plasticotamia.

Digression alert!

I’m beginning to suspect that as part of the annual New Model Year Celebration, custom van manufacturers ceremonially destroy all molds and spare parts for the prior year’s model. There can be no other explanation for the way that I have never once been able to replace anything that broke on this vehicle without going through six levels of hell.

I’m envisioning the COO, clad in a loincloth and feathers, perched on top of the roof with a seatbelt casing held on high, as the mechanics chant “ooooaaaaaaBOOgah, ooooaaaaaBOOgah!” below…

“Oh Mighty Demon of Inconvenience,” he intones. “We present to You our humble offering – let us sell many expensive yet not-quite-right replacements to unsuspecting custom van conversion owners this year!!” And he flings the seatbelt casing for the ’05 model years to the cement below!

{{{SMASH!!!!!!}}}

{Shrieks of hedonistic delight from the gathered mechanics, who rush to smear the leaking oil on their faces in strange geometric patterns…}

Hmm. I may have put in just a little too much Discovery Channel time this weekend. Ahem.

Anyway.

It might ‘serve him right’ to have his insurance foot a large bill for what is really a rather small repair, but I’m just not feeling the outrage.

I know. It is weird. Because ordinarily I hold a grudge against people who do such things in a manner that makes my Irish relatives (some of whom have held cow-related grudges for more than one hundred generations) say, “Let it go, already!”

I’m taking this lack of wanting a piece of his flesh as a subtle hint from the Universe that perhaps it is time to light a fire under my new van purchasing behind. I honestly don’t think the damage will impact the trade in value much; shoot, there’s much worse damage on other parts of the van. We’re going to be getting the token trade-in value at any rate, and I’m not investing $DEITY-only-knows how much into cosmetic repairs in the hope of getting a better trade-in.

Poor old Behemoth. She turns ten in February…and doesn’t look a day over thirty.

Hmm. Maybe…I’d better make sure she never has a chance to warn the new minivan…

Monday, November 27, 2006

Crazy Glue on the handlebars

Thanksgiving was quite a rush. On Monday, I had a guest list of twelve adults and eight children; by Wednesday night, I was down to five adults and four kids.

An eighteen pound turkey for five adults and four children (all four of whom looked at the turkey doubtfully, and then asked for pie instead) was a little…much. If you visit the Den any time soon, don’t think you’re leaving without a gallon-sized Ziploc stuffed with turkey. Or possibly a Hefty bag.

You have been warned, people.

I must add that it was neither the scary-factor of my Den nor that people flaked out on me – everybody who didn’t come had a darned good (and mostly painful, alas) reason for not coming. I love and bless everybody who didn’t come, wish those in pain speedy recoveries and promise to inflict my cooking on them with interest come Christmas.

Thursday night, as I was shoving the last dish into the dishwasher and listening to the thundering Denizens careering around upstairs resisting arrest bedtime, I found myself pondering the idea that I had just had a day off. And that I also had Friday off. Followed by the weekend. Four whole days of (almost) no work-work.

I was pondering how strange and marvelous four whole days of loafing was when it struck me: I have been running like crazy on a treadmill for ten years.

I mentioned in my last post how tight our finances were some years ago. We were in hock for over $90,000 between credit cards and car loans, and at the time we had a combined income of just under $60,000 a year. Interest rates were soaring, and most of that debt was up at twenty percent or better. Interest payments alone were murderous.

And then the Denizens began coming along, and my husband and I turned our full attention to getting out of debt and getting our financial lives back on track.

The really strange thing isn’t that we worked out way out of that hole in ten year’s time. No, the strange and wonderful thing is that I, the kid my parents were undoubtedly sure was going to end up on a commune drumming for rain dressed in nothing but woad and feathers, focused intently on any goal for ten solid years.

That, people, is amazing. Because honestly, the only time I generally stick to anything for any real length of time is when there is an unfortunate accident involving a tube of Crazy Glue.

But you know what? I’m kind of tired of it. Just like getting stuck to the table by a nefarious tube of not-quite-as-sealed-as-you-thought-it-was Crazy Glue, the sticking to The Plan has gone on a lot longer than it really needed.

I’d like to try new things, without feeling like their failure will burn down the barn. To take the edge off the frantic pace and let things just be what they are, once in a danged while. Let things that are purely for me-me-me migrate from their desperate, tie-a-knot-and-hang-on bottom of the list creep up a notch or seven, to a position where they might actually happen.

Can’t be too much to ask, can it?

Pretty basic, right?

Right.

So! As my first act of not worrying and being nice to me, I’m going to take a shower. That’s right! Before I get caught up trying to see if this or that transaction posted hither or yon, before checking personal email or watching the evening news or even starting a healthy, hot meal for my adorable Denizens.

I’m not going to rush through it because I’ve got too much to do tonight, nor am I going to stay up late to compensate for time lost. Whatever doesn’t get done, doesn’t get done. And none of it, I’m sure, is going to cause the house to collapse in a pile of rusted bolts and broken roof tiles. (Well. I’m pretty sure, anyway.)

It’s a micro-step…but it’s a start.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Give us this day a full tank of gas…

I filled up my big old van’s big old tank this morning. Not exactly “Dear Diary” material, I know. Or at least, in a normal person’s mind it wouldn’t be.

But for me, well. I’m not normal.

Eight years ago, our financial situation was, hrm. Rather intense. Which here can be translated to mean, “So ugly that I literally broke down in tears and had to flee the room upon reading a note from daycare saying that Eldest had been out of diapers for three days and had borrowed sixteen diapers in that period of time would I !PLEASE! bring in some diapers already?!”

Because…I wasn’t going to have enough cash for a package of diapers before the weekly direct deposit happened. I used cloth diapers at home, so I couldn’t even raid my home stash for them.

In case you’re wondering why I’m so rabid on such ‘whatever’ topics as leftovers, not buying crap you don’t need or even really want, working smarter and not harder and so forth and so on (and on, and on, and on): I owed daycare sixteen diapers, and couldn’t pay them back. People. That’s less than $10. And I couldn’t come up with it without an ‘after Friday’ option.

{sermon}
Use your leftovers! Drive that car until it gives you a darned good reason to replace it! Insulation! Brush AND floss!! Wear a sweater and for Pete’s sake, think about Someday before it hits you upside the noggin!! And remember, children: A line increase on a credit card does NOT equal a pay raise!!
{/sermon}

Anyway, at the time, every Saturday morning went the same way: pay the bills in the morning, go to the bank for whatever was left over, do the shopping, fill up the car on the leavings.

Occasionally, I might actually get the tank filled all the way. Gas was about $1.50 a gallon if memory serves, and my Escort wagon only had a ten gallon tank. But usually, uh, not.

Standing there in my nice warm wool jacket listening to the hiss of the pump as my Ginormous Van cheerfully sucked $60 worth of gasoline into its innards courtesy of my Mastercard, I remembered one time I walked in and plopped $3.50 on the counter. Two ones, and a fistful of small denomination coins rescued from the ash tray. Carefully sorted and counted twice, then set on the counter in neat little easy-to-count piles, which was my way of trying to make it look less crazy.

“$3.50 on 2, please.”

{pause}

“You want…three dollars and fifty cents worth?” she asked. Her voice couldn’t decide if it wanted to be sarcastic or commiserating. She stared at my neat piles of coins with an expression that clearly said she thought I was probably somewhat dangerous and she was considering calling the police.

“Yes, please,” I said brightly, trying to look more eccentric than crazy. She shook her head, put the money in the till and stared at me through the window for the entire four minutes it took to put just over two gallons of gas into my car.

Two gallons of gas was crazy talk. It was ‘going nowhere else this weekend’ talk. It was ‘going to be lucky to make it to the train station and back this week’ talk. It was ‘might have to use the old shoe leather…at 4:00 in the morning…in the dark…’ talk.

Worse…it was ‘call your mother and ask for a(nother) loan’ talk. Oooooh, man. Just…just shoot me, OK? I am not running home to momma for gas money!!

It was a time in life when I might lie awake at night trying to find the ‘quit’ option. How do I just say, “OK, you win, I give up”, to Life? You the man, Life, you the man. Congratulations on your shut-out victory over me. Can we go again? Best two out of three?!

Obviously, it got better. And it got better quickly from that point – I had a better job and was becoming more and more fiscally savvy by the second. The debt snowball began working its magic and pretty soon I even had the discipline to start using credit cards again – but that's another story for another day.

Yet still, every so often…standing there in my beautiful wool jacket, pumping gas into my big old van, pondering what to do with the annual bonus check when (if) it arrives and whether or not now is a good time to move money out of Stock X and into Stock Y…I find myself thanking $DEITY for the blessing which is a full tank of gasoline.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Danger, Will Robinson!

I think the danger in being a computer geek is that you know how things ‘ought’ to work. You plan all your dangerous maneuvers based on how you know, from all the times you’ve done it in the past, how it will work.

And of course, it promptly doesn’t work properly.

It’s a simple thing I wanted to do. I wanted to update some rows of data where certain conditions exist, to correct for a problem that happened back in pre-history. Simple. Basic database manipulation. OK, granted, the ‘where’ statement was a little on the twisty side; if this then do that other thing to see if it is slot A or slot B, return C if neither kind of stuff. But still, not all that difficult. Basic stuff. Advanced beginner SQL coding.

Or would have been, if I weren’t having a day where I want to sell everything I own, eschew computers entirely and move to a llama farm. Because what ‘ought’ to work ain’t workin’ and what I shouldn’t have had to do I had to do and what I expected to take about two hours tops instead took six.

The worst part, of course, is that what I was trying to do was back out a, um, well. “Mistake” is such an ugly term. I prefer to call it an “unanticipated output”.

Thankfully, only a handful of people are actually working today so I think I managed to get the restore to @*^&ing restore before anybody had a chance to go, “Heeeeey…what happened, how come all the fields are purple? Where did the names go? What’s…what’s going on?! OH MY GOD! It’s the END! END, PEOPLE!!!!”

It is never fun to explain to your users that you had an update statement mishap and that you’re working on a timely solution. You can’t explain what you’re actually doing to the non-geek because the terms may cause them to fall over stone dead either from shock or in an attempt to make you stop saying words like “WHERE FROM HAVING INTO JOIN BY” all in a blather.

Yet when you try to just say, “Technical difficulty, please stand by”, what do they do?

“What kind of difficulty? Well, what are you doing about it?!”

Before you know it… “Well, the WHERE didn’t mesh with the HAVING and the JOIN ON was missing a clause which caused the SUBQUERY to return…” {{THUMP!!}}

Drat. Killed another end user.

What’s pissing me off is that I very carefully backed up my data into a mirror table. I should have been able to simply say, “Whoops, hang on, that didn’t actually work the way my tests indicated it would…I’ll just go ahead and rename this table to X_DEL, rename the backup table from X_BU to X and start over.”

But ooooooooh no. “General system error: Action not permitted.”

Whaaaaat?

It only got better. I got ‘you must be logged in as a sysadmin to perform this function’ (um…I am the sysadmin…ALL BOW BEFORE ME!!!). I got ‘Truncation not permitted – contact sysadmin for more information’. I got ‘General network error 18672986712: System not found.’

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT!?

Of course, the whole time, I could do other data manipulation just fine. I just…wasn’t allowed…to rename tables.

What.
The.
Heck, people?!

So naturally, instead of just working around it and getting ‘er done, I puttered around trying to figure out what was really wrong, here. Because I knew how it ought to work. I’ve done it that way a zillion and a half times over the last fifteen years. It works, every time. Except this one. So let’s go ahead and worry about why it isn’t working, rather than figuring out what would work and moving on with our lives.

This, friends, is why I say computer geeks are a race apart. We are genetically incapable of just letting it go. No no. It ought to work and dammit, I’m going to spend the next five years of my life, if need be, to figure out why it isn’t working per my plan.

And the more experienced we are, the more we do it. See, if it were…ten years ago? Five years ago, even! I’d’ve gone, “Wow, hey, that isn’t working, I must be doing it wrong, I’ll just {insert one of five other ways to do the same thing here}!”

But no. I know too much! I know it ought to work! {Grows old trying to force something that ain’t working to work, damn you! woooooorrrrrrrk!!!!!}

And then, oh oh oh, get this: the backup table I had made decided that I didn’t know what I meant by varchar and obviously I had meant float.

So when I did realize I was redefining insanity (insanity: doing the same exact thing over and over again, expecting different results) and turned to Plan B, all my product numbers turned into these weird things with decimals so I couldn’t even delete all the data from Table 1 and replace it with the backup data from Table 2 and honestly by that point I was about ready to give it all up for a nice safe career as a Sherpa. Ah yes, carrying tourist luggage up Everest, that’s the life for me! (Said the woman who can barely walk up her stairs some nights…)

Much cussing and kicking and shouting obscene words at the screen later, finally, I got everything back the way it was before I messed with it.

And then I made coffee.

And then, to add insult to injury, as I was standing there at the machine waiting for the pressure to come up enough to steam my milk, I realized that there was a far easier and safer way to do my manipulation: Port the data into Excel, do my nested ‘IF’ thing in Excel, export the results back to an update table, join the two together and run the update off the proven-with-my-eyeballs results from Excel.

(Did I just hear a series of {{THUMPS!!!}} out there?!)

So I did, and the !WHOLE THING! took, like, half an hour. All tests indicate that in this case, Excel rocked the free world. From a solid paragraph of CASE statements to a single cell’s worth of nested IF, with conditional formatting to highlight…

{{THUMP!!}}

Oops. Better stop with the geek-speak before the police arrive and haul me away for wholesale murder of innocent blog readers.

Anyway – this is what y’all are missing, who have successfully avoided the geeky world of databases. Tune in tomorrow, when I find out that what I did wasn’t at all what the user wanted…

Friday, November 17, 2006

Not that I’m counting, but…

In eight minutes, I will be done working for the week. Let the rakish, devil-may-care, how wild and crazy am I?! drinking of two, COUNT THEM! TWO!!!, hard ciders each evening begin!!

Oooooh yeah. I’m a wild one. Rrowr.

Also, because I am so proud of myself for finally remembering to do it: I’ve updated my links. Check ‘em out.

I got six rows in on the shawl, and lived to tell about it. Two more rows, and then I start decreasing – four stitches come off every other row for quite a while. Pretty soon, the thing starts positively flying. Instead of taking just shy of half an hour per row.

Which is tedium-SQUARED.

I have temporarily set aside Eldest’s sweater while I work on this. Because I am suffering a sudden bout of panic brought on by the sudden realization that Thanksgiving is next week and I am never in a million years going to finish all the Christmas knitting I thought I was going to do. So I am appeasing my panic by pretending I can still get it all done by casting on the shawl. And also, Eldest told me she isn’t planning to actually wear the sweater because, and I quote, “It is too hot and I don’t think I actually like the star.”

So I’m sulking, and refusing to work on it until she takes it back.

Maturity personified, that’s me.

About that new HVAC system – they’re out there pounding away right now. We’re getting a new air conditioning unit, a new furnace, some new duct work (yay), a boss thermostat (which is requiring new wiring, naturally). Cabinets were removed to make room. And oddly, the thing that makes me happiest: the old yellow fuzzy insulation will be replaced with gleaming chrome NASA-space-blanket material.

I’ve always loathed that yellow fuzzy stuff. It makes me feel as though mice have been peeing in my garage. Seriously. I look at that yellow fuzzy stuff, and I think Mice + Pee.

Yuck.

In other news, I just had a conversation about leftovers. Which seems an odd thing to be having an actual discussion about, but there you are. These things happen in my reality with shocking frequency; it’s like the way that somehow, your religious relatives manage to bring a conversation about auto parts around to $DEITY. It started off innocently enough…

“Hey, whole chicken is $0.69 a pound at SavMart!” I enthused.

“Yes, but what would I do with a whole chicken?” she demanded. “Billy and I would only eat maybe half of it and then we’d have to throw the rest away! I can buy two chicken breasts for the same price and not have to throw any away!”

After I picked my brain up off the sidewalk and blew the germs off it, I asked her if she had never heard of ‘leftovers’. To which she replied that she just couldn’t come up with anything to do with them.

**SPLAT!**

Brain on the sidewalk again.

Because man, I am all about strategic leftover usage. And pre-cooking. And all manner of devious ways to have homey meals on the table without actually spending two hours in the kitchen that very day.

I know it fell out of favor, but for a while the ‘cook monthly and freeze’ thing was all the rage. And also, when I was working the 50-60 hour weeks with the four hour daily commute, it saved my bacon. We never would have eaten anything that wasn’t shoved through my car window in a greasy paper bag if it hadn’t been for the monthly cooking thing.

The idea was, you’d find one weekend – just one weekend a month! – and cook like a fiend. You made casseroles and whatnot, popped them into the freezer and viola! “On demand” dinners! I have the Sabbath feature on my oven (yes, even non-Jews can get these ovens, they don’t check your credentials – only your credit rating), so I’d even put the frozen thing in there in the morning and set the oven to come on at, say, 4:00. By 6:00 when we got home, dinner was ready.

Although I don’t do the monthly thing any more, I do still cook with an eye to planned leftovers. Day 1, some big hunk of meat is roasted. Pot roast, whole chicken, pork loin, something like that. (Pauses to daydream about a standing rib roast…which I am too cheap to buy but lust after regularly because I love it so…)

On Day 2, I do something sneaky with the meat – but not sneaky enough that nobody will notice it’s the same thing. Like, I’ll take slices of pork, mix up the sides and whip up a quick orange sauce or something to put over it. Or make sandwiches or salads or something like that.

Day 3 I’ll do ‘something else’, because even the Denizens will protest pork three nights in a row. Ground beef or previously-frozen chicken breasts are frequently seen on Day 3.

But on Day 4, it becomes a casserole or soup.

Whatever is leftover on Day 4 goes into the freezer in individual-sized take-n-toss containers for lunches or emergency dinners. Because I am not a bit above putting six individual containers of soup into the crockpot and pretending I meant to be serving that for dinner the whole time!

She promises she’ll try it.

I think she was just trying to shut me up.

But in any case, I have witnessed to an unbeliever today and therefore my work is done.

Have a great weekend, y’all. I’m off to put away laundry and stir the crockpot, after which I will pretend that I am positively exhausted by all those hours I spent cooking and cooking and cooking…

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Random and Rambling and Rangy

I really do wonder why it is that every time I start taking my vitamins, I get sick. Every single time I say to myself, “Hmm, I haven’t been taking my vitamins lately” and start taking them? Bam. Sore throat within hours.

I honestly don’t know if it is the vitamins triggering the cold/flu, or if I only take them when some part of my subconscious realizes that the cold/flu is already making itself at home. I don’t know this because I am, at the DNA-level, unable to remember to take my @*^&@ing vitamins. God have mercy on me if I ever have a life-threatening condition which requires taking X pill at Y time. And Lord-Lord, if it’s two or three pills at irregular intervals? Well. I might as well save the cost of the prescriptions, and set it aside for the beer at my wake, friends. It only makes sense.

I also can’t remember to take Tylenol on a schedule, which would probably work much better at controlling the crazy that is this stupid arthritis. But ooooooh no. I only remember to take the Tylenol after I’ve snapped some poor innocent person’s head off because I ache all over.

Well. Mentally snapped their head off. I’m actually a rather gentle person, in person.

Which brings me to my next pondering of the day. Why is it that some people like to go through their life picking fights with everybody? Seriously. I don’t understand it. Is it a power thing? Does it give an otherwise shallow little life deep meaning, to go around stomping on others? To demand your rights be respected before they’ve been in any way approached? To walk through the doors shouting, “Me first! ME FIRST!!”?

To cut people off at the gas pumps, or shove your way around old ladies, or attack the wait staff the moment your every whim is not being indulged? I don’t get this. I just really don’t. I don’t get it in the same way I don’t get why men feel, once married, they have been given a free farting pass.

Judging from the highly scientific study I did (which consisted of asking a few girlfriends after we’d all pounded back a drinkie poo or seven), every man on the planet does this (OK, we may have been a little sweeping in our judgment).

And I don’t get it. Nor do I get what these ‘tude types are getting from all that ‘tude they’re busting up everybody’s…well. I suppose it’s just that I get such a long-lasting rush and charge out of making other people laugh and smile and feel good, and I just can’t grok the concept of the opposite working for anybody, really.

Maybe it’s just an utter lack of self-pride. Not self-involvement, because I’ve got that in spades believe-you-me. But I don’t feel, for example, that the barista in Starbucks is trying to mangle my order, and if it’s wrong generally just gently pointing it out gets it fixed. I don’t feel that I’ve been personally and with malice aforethought slighted in any way.

I don’t feel it’s a waste of my life to wait for an old lady to get her cart out of the rack, or to stop and help her if she’s having real trouble. Shoot, I’ve struggled with those dumb things myself. Takes me, what, thirty seconds, to unhook a cart and pull it out for her? I’m not so danged important that this is any real loss to society. I mean. It isn’t like I’m not curing cancer, for Chrissake!

I’m just…thirty seconds later hitting the produce aisle, ya know?

Which leads me to produce. What the holy heck is going on with the produce this year? This is California. We’re supposed to have good produce. But the bananas have been gosh-awful, to the point that my children have begun boycotting them, and the vegetables – well. Expensive and rotten. Darn near pre-digested.

Hmm. Is that supposed to be a selling point? “Now, partially digested!”

No, ma’am, those aren’t moldy brown spots – they’re our patented enzymes, doing the work so you don’t have to!!

Speaking of which…Roombas.

Dudes.

Roombas need to be standard issue for all homes across America. Shoot. I’ll throw in Canada, because so many very good things come from thence (Rush, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Loreena McKennitt, inexpensive Vicodin) and I’d like to return the favor for once.

Do you know what I love most about my Roomba? IT WORKS SO I DON’T HAFTA! I just pick an area that needs it, and hit the button and go back to work. It even gets under the beds, an area which has not been vacuumed since approximately 624 BC, when the Great Freeze forced us to burn our beds, and the dust beneath them, to survive the long winter nights.

Which brings me to furnaces.

Do you know how much a new HVAC system costs? A new Trane, that is? A new Trane that is their top of the line, five ton model with dual something or other and a SEER of 16.5 on the higher compressor but an overall SEER of 20-something, which is supposed to be so well sealed that the environment will never see a single drop of coolant and which promises to use so little energy that we will get letters of congratulation from the Sierra Club, PG&E and Ah-nold?

Fourteen thousand, six hundred dollars.

Which brings me to heart medications. Bayer aspirin: it’s a good thing. Also, financing people really need to know CPR. Just sayin’.

Speaking of blackouts (oh, were we?) I expect to single-handedly solve the energy crisis in California with this new system. That’s right. I truly believe that my air conditioner caused the massive rolling blackouts five years ago. I know that my PG&E bill caused a personal blackout. There are whole months I can’t remember clearly.

Speaking of remembering clearly…I have suddenly remembered that I hate mohair. Hate it. Have vowed I will never-ever knit with it again. Ever. Period. Hallelujah-amen.

So I got a few rows into the shawl with the mohair and made a painful realization: it’s mohair.

Yes.

I know I knew it was mohair before I started.

And that I said it was well-behaved mohair.

Well, it is…as long as you don’t, you know, touch it. But as I was working with it, it began to become…hairy. Which would be good if a hairy-mohair look was the objective. In fact, I’d say that as far as mohairs go, this is still a great one. It isn’t so hairy you can’t see what you’re doing, but give it a little rub and *fumph!*, there’s the fur.

Only except…I don’t want the fur. Not on this shawl. It would mar the lace and look stupid. And shed. All over whatever you were wearing underneath it.

@*^&@.

So I broke off and, once I got done sulking about it and went stash-diving, discovered some beautiful bright blue Goode Plain Olde Wool loitering around in the bottom of a box.

It made gauge as if it had been designed for no other purpose than to precisely measure a 4” square when sixteen stitches were knitted twenty-four times on 5.0 needles. It has no false pride. It doesn’t not think it has the right to boss me around. It cast on smoothly, it doesn’t split every other stitch like the mohair, it has good stitch definition and by the way knits about ten times faster than the mohair did, even if I’m watching television instead of my hands at the time. Which inattention to Its Glorious Self the mohair punished with split, dropped, and otherwise mangled stitches every blessed time I raised up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence came my Meerkat Manor.

Did I mention I hate mohair?

And casting on 449 stitches again has taken tedium to a whole new level of hurt.

But that’s OK.

It helped me remember to take my Tylenol before retiring for the night.

Which reminds me, with due respect to the late, great Dave Allen: Good night, and may your god go with you.

Wish I coulda been a fly on the wall

So. There’s been a certain flap about a breastfeeding mother having been (allegedly) ejected from a plane for breastfeeding indiscreetly, which is here defined as ‘refusing to take an offered blanket’.

Let’s get this right up front: Mother Chaos is 2,715% for breastfeeding. It is awesome for all parties concerned. It is healthy. It is natural. It is ‘free’ – which right there trumps formula by about two zillion votes.

And also, it suits me in the lazy department. You never have to go out at 1:30 in the morning because you ran out of formula. It does not require special racks in your dishwasher to handle the cleaning. You never have to leave the mall because Baby is hungry early and wailing for milk.

It’s sanitary. You don’t often hear that there was a recall put out on breast milk, right? “Women who were lactating in Pensacola between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday are urged to return their breasts with their contents immediately due to possible e coli contamination…” or hear about some kid coming down with botulism because of a breast having been left out on a counter overnight. Unlike formula, which has been known to have such things happen.

It’s always the right temperature, the right blend of vitamins, minerals, fats and whatnot, the right temperature, and Baby is almost never upset to be held right up against your warm skin to have a nice drink; in point of fact, it solves what I’ve found to be about 70% of the reasons why a baby hollers: Hunger, and Want To Be Cuddled. (With the other percentage breaking down as 23% diaper/pain issues, and 7% Just Keeping You On Your Toes Ha Ha)

Also, I quickly learned to nurse while lying down, which was a tremendous boon for those wee-hour ‘feed me’ squalls.

It rocks. If you’re having a baby any time soon and aren’t sure – I urge you to give it a try. It’s tricky at first and feels weird and yes, sore nipples have been known to happen especially in the early days (OK, weeks for some of us), but trust me. Done it both ways. Breastfeeding kicks butt.

Hokay. That little rant being out of the way…I wish I could have been a fly on the wall.

You’ve got a lady nursing her almost-two-year-old child. (Warning – picture of woman nursing a toddler! OH THE HORROR!!!!) (Seriously – take a Grow The @*^&@ Up Pill, OK? Humans have been doing this for a long time. We have not ceased to be animals just because we invented Coach bags, people.)

The flight has been delayed for three hours. Everybody, including the flight attendant by the way, is pissy. The flight attendant sees this toddler (or shoot, for all she knows, preschooler – that kid takes up more footprint on Mom’s lap than my Boo Bug does on mine, and she’s four!) sucking away and says to herself, “Oh, ack.”

People are funny that way, too. People who would beam graciously at you while nursing an infant will get all squirmy and freaked out when it’s a toddler. It’s like the Never Ending Binkie Debate, or the Is He Still Using A Bottle? Wars.

Anyway, our flight attendant feels she is witnessing something icky. She approaches the mother with her blanket (OK) and her distaste (might have done a better job hiding that, maybe), and is rebutted (what a surprise).

Here’s where I wish I could be a fly on the wall. I’m willing to bet a pissy-match broke out between a bunch of weary, stressed out people. Words were likely exchanged, the pissy-o-meter starts to peg and then…

“It’s my legal right,” Mom says, triumphantly. HA! Straight flush! Trump that, ha ha!!

“Oh yeah? Let me tell you what, sis, I can throw anybody off this plane for any reason, because we as a nation are so thoroughly gripped by fear and loathing around air travel that we have given that power to anybody in a uniform around here! Therefore, HA! OFF THE PLANE, GIRLFRIEND! And please, enjoy your layover.”

Oooooooh, SNAP! She had a royal flush in her back pocket!!

Whether or not any or all parties regretted their decisions after a good night’s sleep and maybe a nice hot shower, the world may never know.

Personally, I would have taken the blanket. Those things can be darned hard to come by on an airplane. This one time on a flight from Florida? There. Were. No. Blankets. And they had the air on to the point where you thought maybe the wing would be warmer, and it really, really sucked.

Hmm. I wonder if I can convince Captain Adventure to take up nursing again…

To My Darling Young Family Members…

Listen. Y’all know I love you. But I need you to do something for me.

I want to stop getting things from y'all about…how some guy used debris as a ‘hang glider’ to get down from 147th floor of the collapsing World Trade Center. Or that aspartame causes brain tumors. Or that sucking a penny “defeats” the breathalizer test. Or that Liz Claiborne is {a Satanist, a black-hater, doesn’t think Asians should wear her clothes, tears the livers out of living puppies and spreads them on rye toast for breakfast}.

Just when I think one of these old dogs has finally laid down and breathed his last, oooooooh no. Here it is again. Some breathless, na├»ve (but charming, and you just can’t get really mad at her) niece is forwarding to me again. “OH MY GAWD, AUNT TAMA! I had no idea Republicans actually killed human babies in their rituals!! And it’s totally true, because the guy in the email says he actually saw it happening!” {insert about six dozen smiley things and a few more gushing declarations, and probably a link to an e-petition to protest the slaughter of human babies for law-making purposes which leads to a site with a bunch of banner advertising and hence by going to the site I’ve just bumped their revenue potential model by adding yet one more page view to their stat counter so they can tell advertisers they get X+1 per day, DARN IT ALL TO HECK!!!!}

And since said niece also copied every other member of our 200+ strong family group…I’m going to be getting this dumb thing again and again and again for months.

**sigh**

OK, granted. I’m rather extra grumpy today. The Tylenol is not working well today, and Auntie is on the cranky side. But children…please. Can we stop now? Can we grow a little cynicism about these things?

Can we stop filling Auntie’s inbox with OMG OMG OMG messages about puppy-eating designers and !!FURIOUS OUTBURSTS!! denouncing the evil ways of the {Democrats, Republicans, insurance companies, whiffle-bat makers} complete with eyewitness accounts of their baby-murdering, theft, moral debauchery and so forth, which ‘some guy’ listed below insists he either saw or heard about first (second, third) hand.

Snopes it. Like Googling, only put in www.snopes.com. You can do this. I know you can. Heck, you can figure out how to program the clock on my VCR, you are already light years ahead of your old Auntie on the technology front.

If you can’t or won’t, don’t send it to me. Because it irks me. It irks the living devil out of me. I am incapable of not researching things which trip my “whaaaaaaaaat? oh, come on, what’s the probability of that?!”-O-Meter, and every single time I research it I find you’re falling for a damned lie and it upsets me.

Because you’re cute, O My Nieces and Nephews. And innocent. And dewy-eyed and so damned eager to Do the Right Thing™. They’re playing your emotions and getting you all fired up about lies, damned lies, and statistics. They send you off on these wild goose chases and honestly? They make you look like fools. Which you are not. I have precisely no stupid relatives. Well. There is that one uncle of yours, but let’s not be unkind. Just click here to sign an e-petition on his behalf…

If you’ve simply got to send me OMG messages, how about we make it, “OMG OMG OMG, you’ll never believe this, but I got a new boyfriend and he’s utterly awesome and he treats me wonderfully and respects me as an equal and bought me chocolate and stuff!!! He’s sooooooo cute! We met at the Straight A Smartie Club, only he was late because of football practice. {smiley smiley smiley smiley} And also I just got elected President of Everything in high school and made the Varsity team while simultaneously accepting an invitation to the Super Brainiac Think Tank and the President accepted my proposal for World Peace and by the way are you coming to the big Christmas party because you still owe me $50 for my straight A report card…”

Toss in a few animated dancing bunnies (or better yet, a picture of your smiling face) and a couple dozen smileys and we’re golden, kid.

Smooches.

Yer Auntie

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tedium, redefined

Tedium (n): 1. the quality or state of being wearisome; irksomeness; tediousness.
2. “Cast on 449 stitches very loosely”

I have just accomplished #2 above. And it took the lion’s share of my lunch half-hour. Even though I was using about the fastest method of very loose cast on, the backward loop (picture from Let’s Get Knitting):

Image from Let’s Get Knitting

Holy carp.

However, there is a reason behind my madness.

First and foremost, when you cast on 449 stitches for a shawl, it generally means this is a shawl which is upfront and honest about itself. It does not, for example, start with a benign “cast on 7 stitches” and then slowly and sneakily increase itself by four or sixteen or eleventy million stitches per row until you’re sweating and crying your way through 500+ stitches on each row.

No. This one starts out at 449, and works its way down. It starts off by showing you the worst it will be. “Here I am,” it says. “I’m a 449 stitch monstrosity! It will take you almost half an hour merely to cast me on! And we’re not going to talk about how long that first row will take, since you used the backward loop cast on method – fast out the gate, but hard to pick up that first row!”

I am not going to find out how long it will take for another hour (or so), because I am actually working right now. Stupid work, getting in the way of my creative endeavors!

Secondly, the Brooks Farm Primero (kid mohair) I got at Stitches last year has finally found a calling.

This stuff has been tormenting me.

I have two different balls of it, one in a mossy-brown that can’t fully make up its mind whether it wants to be a dark woody green, or a slightly green brown; and the other is a variegated with the same mossy-color, cream, and beige green.

I wish I had touch-vision on my blog, people. It feels like…eh, butter is overused. I suspect a garment made of this stuff will feel like slipping into a tub full of rich, sensuous melted chocolate. Warm, and soft, and delicious. It is the perfect material to make something for someone I wish I could wrap my arms around and protect like crazy right now.

And it isn’t too “mohair-y”. You know how mohair can sometimes resemble…well, my hair? Flying every which way and refusing to show any discipline at all!? Can’t tell if that’s a split end, or just…the hair?

That isn’t this stuff. It’s mohair, but it’s polite. It doesn’t mind staying where it is asked to stay.

Yes. I love this stuff. At Stitches, I kept sneaking into their booth when they were busy with other customers so I could lurk in a corner stroking the skeins. It was embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop. Honestly. That, and hogging other people’s babies – which got me into a wee touch of trouble this weekend with Captain Adventure, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Anyway, the Primero, though polite as mohairs go, still wasn’t all that well behaved. Sure, it agreed to not-too-fuzzy, but it wanted veto rights on all projects I proposed.

It didn’t want to be the sweater I first envisioned. Then it didn’t want to be a vest. And I couldn’t seem to get a gauge / stitch combination I was happy with. And then I was revisiting an old pattern in a moment of reality impairment idle speculation and suddenly I thought, “Saaaaaaaay…you know what would look good?”

The first gauge? Disaster! Too big, too loose, too awful!! I began to wonder if this Primero was going to be happy with anything. I pondered eBay. I considered hucking the stuff out the window. I was getting annoyed. Every single time I get an idea, it just refuses to play along…

But I persisted. What if, I said to myself. I were to take this bad boy down by a couple needle sizes…

Bingo. It looks fabulous my darlings. And oddly…it is not horribly off gauge.

These, of course, are foolish words to utter. “Gauge” and “pretty darned close”, over 449 stitches, is like saying, “Well, the average hand grenade has a safety radius of 25 meters, and this one is a bit on the smallish side, so I’m probably good with a 15 meter safety zone…”

If this were a sweater, I’d be using the yarn as insulation in the walls right about now. But since it is a shawl…well. By my calculations (ahem – if anyone can explain to me how I can work my way through the most convoluted nested ‘if’ statements with derivatives and other inhumane terms and arrive at fiscal answers widely considered accurate, yet have terrible trouble with such things as “divide 3.8 inches in swatch by 16 stitches, then multiply by the total number of stitches in your project to get approximate ending size”, I’d surely appreciate it), instead of about 86” wide and 44” deep, I’m probably going to end up with 82(ish) wide and 42(ish) deep.

I can live with this. Especially since I just blocked the swatch (in the sink, and held down by a binder) and got it to the desired 10 centimeters square without making it look a bit weird.

So in an act of sheer, unselfish nobility, I am furthering my craft-closet-cleaning endeavors by knitting it up immediately into a Stora Dimun shawl from Cheryl Oberle’s Folk Shawls book. Which is one of my top ten “if I were stranded on an island devoid of life (except sheep), which books would I want to take with me” list.

Or at least, I will. The moment I can extricate myself from the office and get my behind in my rocking chair.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I hate friends

MADE YOU LOOK!!!!

No, but seriously. You know what the problem is with friends? They’re so delightful, and lovely, and add so much joy to your life that if, let’s just say that if you were to pull a couple of their names from a hat as people you will be giving presents to this year…gift card? Ha! Surely you jest!

No-no-no. What would be perfect for {name here} is…an impossibly delicate lace stole! Or maybe a luscious cashmere wimple. Or! No, wait-wait-wait! I need to do the diamond lace hat by Psycho Crazy Designer, with real diamonds!

Because after all – friends are worth their weight in wool.

Friends can make you forget about such piddley details as the laws of time and space. I can show mathematically that even if conditions were ideal – which of course they are not – I could not possibly get All That Knitting done in the time I have. Not even if I had the yarn I want not only in the closet, but somewhere near the surface of the bottomless pit which is my stash.

Which of course I don’t. I’d have to order it. And since we are already in the period where normal shipping times are delayed by a day (week) or two due to heavy volume, well shoot. I’d probably be getting the stuff the day after Never.

Does this stop me? Does this make me say, “Gee, that is Cwazy Tawk! I’m going to go ahead and get them a nice Macy’s gift card!”?

Tis to laugh! Ha! Hahahahahaha!

Of course not. Because the thing is, Einstein’s theory of relativity clearly states that time and space move differently in different realities. And brother, my reality is about as different as it gets.

So, instead I’m going to make myself crazy between then and now, throw a temper tantrum or three, dissolve into hysterics around, oh, December 21, and then I’m going to rush out at the last possible second for the gift card.

Just so we’re clear.

(Although speaking of ho-ho-ho knitting, I did just find a fabulously awesome !FREE! pattern at KnitPicks for…wait for it…coasters. Fair Isle coasters. And mug warmers. MUG WARMERS, people!!! I may need to whump up a few batches from stash yarn for pure humor value, if nothing else.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

I do love fall...




You Belong in Fall



Intelligent, introspective, and quite expressive at times...

You appreciate the changes in color, climate, and mood that fall brings

Whether you're carving wacky pumpkins or taking long drives, autumn is a favorite time of year for you

PARTY ON!!!

By the day before the party, I had begun muttering, "These are friends coming over. This is not House Beautiful coming to photograph, or the Food Network arriving to preview my show premise. It's OK. Friends. Family. Loved ones. Not uncaring corporate monsters. Friends. Family. Not perfect = OK."

I think I may have been creeping our guests out a little with it. Especially when I'd stare through them and chant it. "Frieeeeeends... fammmmily... ooooooohm..."

The party was very loud. And also? A lot of food was eaten. My Lord, a lot of food was eaten. I mean, seriously. We went through the better part of four full trays of BBQ. We noshed our way through two Costco sized boxes of hors d’oeuvres. Six of the nine pies I ended up making were eaten. Eight dozen petit fours? Gone, baby. Plus also a Costco bag of Chex mix, two large vegetable platters, a fair chunk of the Largest Vat of Vegetarian Chili Ever Attempted, and two vegetarian lasagnas. Three cheese trays. And about a vault’s worth of crackers.

However, I thought it very telling about our demographic that when you look in our recycling, there are more empty water bottles and soda cans than beer. And also, while we did manage to kill the brandy and the whiskey, there is still much hard liquor left over. Oh, darn the luck – we still have most of the Grey Goose vodka. Shoot, whatever shall I do with the stuff?!

Another sign of our obvious, erm, maturity: The house was not destroyed. When we got up Sunday morning to face the music…behold, the music was Mozart.

Our friends rock. They party, yet destroy not the Den. **sniff** I love you guys.

However, today is a ‘sick’ day for us. I’m OK (other than all my major joints, which are forming a committee and I believe writing a well-thought-out letter of protest), but the husband is all funned out, and the two younger Denizens are really honestly not feeling well. Boo Bug is sick-sick, and Captain Adventure is ‘there was another toddler in my house for three days and I suspect perhaps I need to remark my turf’ sick.

However, your faithful correspondent ran out of ambition at about 6:30 last night. I did great all day Saturday and most of the day yesterday, but finally slammed my nose into the No Ambition wall at 6:30 and honestly? I’m having trouble motivating myself enough to get the Roomba running. The dumb thing vacuums the room all by itself…but first you have to {ungh} get up {oooooooh}, walk over to the remote {grooooooan} and push the button {agony-agony-agony}.

Eh. I’ll get to it eventually. Right after I finish, uh, checking my email. And drinking the rest of the coffee we have in the house. And maybe the first sleeve of Eldest’s sweater. Oh yeah, and planning Thanksgiving, which I forgot all about in the heat of battle until my husband said yesterday afternoon, “Hey, what are we doing next weekend?” in vaguely hopeful tones (as in, ‘maybe we could just ignore all the remaining cleanup until…’) and I looked at the calendar and I said, “Oh, no, we’re home because…of…getting ready for…{sob sob} Thanksgiving…!”

We looked at each other from across the room and said, in unison, “Aw, CRAP!”

And then we dissolved into semi-hysterical laughter because honestly – what else can you do?! ‘Tis the season, ho ho ha ha la la twinkle-bell jolly holly turkey-n-stuff la-dee-DAH!

Just remember: This all about fun and joy, dammit! If you can just remember that, everything else will fall into place.

Friday, November 10, 2006

“Wait for it…let it settle…” du jour

Guns N Roses decided to cancel a show when they were informed by the fire marshall that they would not be permitted to swig back their booze during the show.

Collins and another fire marshal, Robert Cadigan, "made it impossible for the band to perform their show to the usual high standards that their fans deserve," according to a press release from the band's management agency.

Can’t perform to the usual…high…standards, huh?

I understand, completely. Which reminds me, where did I put that bottle of KettleOne…?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thank you for calling MegaBank.com...

Crazy Aunt Purl told a story today about a public relations job she once held at a newspaper. First of all, I laughed until I darn near fell out of my chair. Y’all, seriously. She is funny.

But this post also brought back a host of memories. Buried deeeeeeep in the dark recesses of my resume is the curious line item of Customer Service Representative, MegaBank.com. Yes, that’s right! Your faithful correspondent burned a couple years of her life answering phones and trying to help people figure out why, if you have $200 in your checking account and write $650 in checks…you run into a problem.

Even better! I was so good at dealing with The Crazy that I got promoted! I was the person other reps transferred customers to when they got out of control with the crazy. I was very good at managing irrational or just really stupid people. I was known for being able to settle down even the most hysterical of brides two days before their wedding when the florist called to say THE CHECK BOUNCED and OH MY GOD do you UNDERSTAND how AWFUL this IS?!?!

So this guy calls in. He says his deposit went missing. He put it in the ATM at this address, and it hasn’t shown up in his account. He is understandably perturbed. He becomes more perturbed as it turns out that it isn’t just one deposit that has gone missing. It’s six deposits. $250 each, all of them AWOL. Five in one ATM, and one in another. He became increasingly upset and then one of the other reps asked him if he was quite sure he had put it in MegaBank.com ATMs and well…he got transferred to me, PDQ.

At the time, deposits did go missing from ATMs with alarming frequency. Of course, “missing” was relative. Sometimes they weren’t missing at all – but the branch “got busy” or “forgot” or something equally stupid and inexcusable, and the “missing” deposits would be found sitting on / in / under / around somebody’s desk a few days later. Or, in one memorable case, an entire cart of the things had been shoved into the safety deposit vault and forgotten for two weeks. (Which in banking is like, two years.)

Oy.

But one guy losing six deposits over a period of six weeks? Weird, man, weird. And my Truth-O-Meter indicated that the guy wasn’t fibbing – he really had lost $1,500 in those ATMs. I promised him I would follow through on it for him, and one thing that has remained the same from then to now is that I am part bulldog. Once I get my teeth into something, you about have to cut off my head to get me to let go.

So there I was. Standing at the desk of our head researcher shoving the research ticket under his nose (again) and saying, “Dude. Seriously. This is ugly. Something is really wrong here!”

Suddenly, he stopped doodling and sat up. He stared wide-eyed into the distance. I realized immediately that he was about to be Brilliant. (Oh mama, was he ever delicious when he was being Brilliant!) (Yes. I had a crush on him. And he thought I was a ‘cute kid’. Oh, cursed youth!!!)

“Oh…wait-a-minute…” he said breathlessly.

And then, he jumped to his feet, grabbed his car keys and his jacket and took off.

About three hours later, he came back and slapped five envelopes down on my desk. The missing deposits, in all their crumpled glory. Wherever had he found them?

Would you believe…stuffed into the tiny not-even-big-enough-to-be-a-crack slit between the display screen and the plastic molding of the ATM?

That’s right! Mr. X had been walking up to the ATM and, rather than putting in his card and going through “all that”, he’d been taking his envelope and, with a will that truly must be admired, shoving it through that tiny crack.

Our intrepid (and delicious) researcher had gone to the branch, taken off the back panel of the ATM and found not only these five, but several dozen such deposits. A few weren’t even in envelopes – just checks that had been slipped through with ‘for deposit only’ scrawled on their backs.

So I called Mr. X, and I told him the happy news. I asked him why he had done this.

“Well,” he said slowly. “The thing is, one time? I put my number in wrong. And the machine ate my card. And I couldn’t get it back again – they had to mail it to me. So I’m afraid if I try to use it again, I’ll lose it again, because I can’t remember that number-thing. So I just…push it through the crack…and…I figured…”

His voice trailed off.

There was a long, long silence.

There I sat, one of the glibbest customer service reps MegaBank.com had. The person who dealt with the most hopeless, the most frustrated / frustrating, the thickest skulled idiots who have ever opened a checking account on this or any other planet. I had talked people down from high ledges, for Pete’s sake. When others ran out of words, I was the go-to girl.

I was speechless.

I actually made a noise that sounded like “habunah-habunah-habunah…”

It took me about four tries to say anything. I got as far as, “Well, I…”

And then, I started to laugh. I laughed until I nearly cried. I laid my head in my hands and laughed until I nearly suffocated.

And then, just as I was hiccupping into silence, he said meekly, “Well, I guess I sorta deserve that…”

And I lost it again.

When I finally pulled it together, I assured him he was not the only person who had ever done that, that in fact an awful lot of people had done so at that very ATM, but that really…uh…in future? Don’t, OK?

OK.

Thank you for calling MegaBank.com, and have a nice day.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I knew it was out there…

OK, Eunny? Eunny Jang? The one who wrote the suspiciously reassuring steek article I read in Interweave (I’m sorry if you haven’t gotten it yet – I not only got it, but promptly mislaid it. I had help mislaying it but I accept full responsibility for my own inability to remember that anything I ever set down, anywhere in the house, is subject to being migrated elsewhere by any one of the ten other busy little hands in this Den)?

But I digress. Rantingly.

ANYWAY. She’s got a blog. AND, she’s got a really, really bodaciously awesome article series The Steeking Chronicles. Woo hoo! I knew something like this existed out there.

Of course, the byline in the magazine saying, “Check out her blog at {uuuuuuuh, yeah, well, I didn’t think I was going to lose the magazine all THAT fast!} helped me in this realization. Google rules, and so does having a name like “Eunny”. Go ahead. Put ‘Eunny’ in the Google bar. Ah-HA! You see what I mean?!

Anyway. In no particular order…

Yes. That is a baby diaper changing pad on my washing machine. I find the height to be just right for the purpose, and it saves me from having another piece of furniture eating up footprint in my Den. (When Captain Adventure was tiny, we had two pads: one on the washer, one on an old desk currently serving as a…really strange dresser.)

The finger is better, although knuckle-wounds really stink. I think what I hate most about such injuries is that they are so idiotically insignificant, and yet…they horn in on every single activity you undertake. They ache, and you expect to look down and see a gaping wound…but no. It’s tiny. Get out the microscope, so I can show you the horrific injuries I suffered yesterday.

Oh well.

I need to work over the budget double hard, because the daycare thing and the Christmas thing and LORD GOD this birthday thing is costing ka-ching ka-ching. Oh, plus also we just had concrete curbing poured in the backyard, a prelude to getting a new patio and sidewalk and putting in actual playground bark around the swings and slides rather than using our current safety method of standing at the kitchen window yelling, “Don’t you kids fall off of there! It’ll hurt!”

And hey. It’s almost eleven, and hey! I’ve got to get up at 4:30! Can anybody tell me why I’m sitting here blogging nonsense when really – I ought to be sleeping? Yes, you in the back? Because I’m more than a bit dim and incapable of learning from past experience?

Hmm…yeah, I’d have to call that an A+ answer, son…

Ashes to ashes...

Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return…

I try to maintain a certain level of calm in the face of Chaos. One truth that shines very clearly to me is that all things, no matter how beloved, no matter how ‘precious’ or otherwise sanctified, will someday…break. Cease to be what they are, and return to what they were before. A diamond is just a shiny rock; silverware is another rock pounded flat and shaped into eating implements; and My Favorite Mocha Mug™ is just cleverly assembled and pleasingly painted mud.

Let me rephrase that.

My Favorite Mocha Mug™ was just cleverly assembled and pleasingly painted mud.

Alas. After giving twelve years of almost daily service (with breaks for certain holidays [snowman mugs at Christmas, orange monstrosities for Halloween] or because it was in the dishwasher), it finally happened. I grabbed. I missed. It fell. It bounced. It lay silent and unmoving in a spreading puddle of milk and coffee and cocoa…

At first, I thought it was OK, maybe just a little stunned…

No no, it’s OK…

But then as I was cleaning up the impressive splatter of mocha and found several large chunks of porcelain, I realized that no. It was not OK…

Not OK

Drat. Not only broken, but shattered-blown-out-porcelain-dust-everywhere busted.

Wah.

I will miss this mug. I have loved this mug. My children loved to look at the dresses on it. Eldest used to be fascinated by them when she was a preschooler.

But things come, and go. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. To cling to possessions is to become possessed by them…and other ways to say…

I will not cry over a stupid coffee mug.
I will not cry over a stupid coffee mug.
I will not cry over a stupid coffee mug.

Farewell, old friend. You will be missed. Be assured that whatever new mug takes on the duty of my morning ritual, it will never replace you. Go freely into your next destiny, whatever it may be…

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Small Pleasure du Jour

There was a wedge of apple pie left. Slightly too big to be ‘a piece’, not nearly big enough to make two pieces.

So I ate it right out of the pie plate with a small dollop of Cool-Whip Lite, washed it down with a short ‘virgin’ butterscotch mocha, felt noble for having made just that much more room in the fridge and for choosing to eat ‘fruit’ for breakfast!

It just can’t get any better than that.

And, because I know somebody is going to ask…

Butterscotch Mocha


Double shot of your favorite toffee-flavored coffee (I used a caramel-chocolate one, Lee's Caramel Kiss Island from Boca Java).

Teaspoon (or so) brown sugar (white sugar will do in a pinch, but just isn’t the same)

One nibble of brown sugar straight out of the bag because not doing so is just asking WAY too much of the average human.

Teaspoon (or so) cocoa powder (not syrup, that makes it too sweet)

~ 1 cup of steamed milk (more for sweeter, less for punchier)

Optional: Shot (or two) Butterscotch schnapps.

You can top it off with whipped cream if you like (too sweet!) (yes, it’s a foo-foo coffee, but darn it, it’s still coffee!), but I personally prefer just the foam from the steamed milk and a dusting of more brown sugar. Dusting. Not ‘six tablespoons plus eating another chunk of the stuff out of the bag’. Please. Let us at least pretend to have some restraint, people.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Drive-by observations

Whew! Welcome to Monday! Let’s see, 9:15 p.m. and I have just now stopped long enough to read my favorite blogs and otherwise catch up with the rest of the world.

Geesh. What a day. So much went down at work today that I didn’t have time to do much more than check my email and wish I had more time to write long-winded responses to friends and family who made mistakes like asking me if I hadn’t seen something in The Economist about the potential global impact of Prop 87 on oil prices…?

We have $500 in beer and spirits ready for pickup Saturday. We have three vegetarian lasagnas and the biggest vat of vegetarian chili ever attempted in this Den safely in the freezer, to be baked / reheated on Saturday. We have four full trays of BBQ being catered. Eight dozen petit fours. A large Costco trip for sodas and whatnot planned for Thursday. Which is, I note, a work day for yours truly. Twelve pies to be baked. On Friday. Which is also, for those keeping track at home, a work day for yours truly. And, all the fresh breads to be put together Saturday morning.

Mother in Law, Best Friend and Child™ and Other Best Friend and Child© are arriving on Friday. Two entities are staying here, third is staying at a local hotel.

Oh yeah. I need to make those arrangements.

But I am not anxious.

I am not anxious.

I am not anxious.

Election day is tomorrow. May $DEITY be praised for all eternity, hallelujah, amen. I don’t care who or what wins at this point, as long as it means They stop calling me. I have hung up on five different callers tonight, before they got more than a breathless “Hi, I’m calling on behalf of Concerned Citizens {For, Against} Prop-” CLICK!!!!!

How I long for the days when instead of merely pushing a button to hang up, you had the option to !!SLAM!! the receiver down to punctuate how annoyed you were.

Boo Bug has been crying for three weeks straight. This is apparently a phase she has gotten stuck in. She cries because…she is being ignored. Or because we’re looking at her. Or because she wanted a bag of M&Ms. Because the chicken is brown. Because the rice is white. Because she wanted to wear the blue pajamas and instead had to wear the purple ones.

Mommy is about two seconds from giving her something to cry about, which is how her own mommy used to handle such episodes.

I broke a nail today. A thumbnail. And it hurt. And it pisses me off, because now it is catching on the wool. This is not acceptable. We are irked, and also we are too busy to get to the nail salon tomorrow – so irked that we are referring to ourselves with the Royal We. We may decide that work can wait and that anyone who disagrees may be beheaded as a traitor to our crown. See ‘catches on wool’ comment, above.

Also, while making snack for the Denizens, I managed to peel not the apple, but my right index finger knuckle. Took a fair-sized chunk of flesh right off of there. One of those chunks that is large enough that at first, it doesn’t hurt or bleed. And then, as you’re setting down the peeler (because for some reason, it is easier to look at the injury with the other hand free of the tool), does both in great quantity. There I am, yelping, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, oh {beep, honk!} OW OW!", racing through the house trying to keep it from bleeding on the carpet (tile yes, carpet no) and then standing over the sink trying to fumble a bandaid out of the box.

Go ahead. Ask me why I didn't ask my husband, who was sitting RIGHT THERE, to help me. Watch in amazement as I sit here and go, "Duuuuuuuuh...because...I'm...tough?"

Sure. That's why I whimper like that, and then inspect the peeler for rust to prove that obviously I don't need a tetanus shot, not after having been cut by that gloriously clean blade. (That isn't rust, it's just...brownish...apple bits...)

It smarts. Like billy-oh. And I feel so incredibly stupid for having done this that I had to rush out tonight and tell the Entire Internet that hey – I’m so inept with basic kitchen appliances that I scalped my own knuckle with an apple peeler specifically designed to be ergonomic and easy-to-use.

I took out and played around with my hammered dulcimer, and my bowed psaltery over the weekend. It was fun. Eldest began playing tunes on the bowed psaltery right away, and Captain Adventure is very, very good at BANGING LIKE THE DICKENS on the hammered dulcimer.

Talk about having a blast from your past. I can almost play Banish Misfortune on the hammered dulcimer. Almost. And I suspect with a little practice (snort), I could be fairly good at the psaltery again. I’ll go ahead and add that to the list, right under learning to scuba dive and before taking up sky diving, shall I?

AND.

Eldest and Danger Mouse are going back into daycare, because…well. Let’s play “good news, bad news”!!

Good news! I had a very nice review and raise a couple weeks ago!

Bad news! This is because I am amazing and obviously – I can do more!

Good news! I’m going to be heading up some new projects, getting my fingers in a lot more pies, and otherwise Taking Over The World!

Bad news! I’m going to be in more meetings, with more people, and having to put in “face time”

Good news! The daycare they loved is delighted to take them back.

Of course, now I have to find time to fill out the forms and whatnot required to put them back in.

It'll be good for us all around, though. My husband and I have been working late into the night and over the weekend, trying to make up hours we didn't get during the week due to having to pick them up at 12:00 for National Margarine Appreciation Half Day or something. Also, they really do have trouble with the concept that we're working. We can't stop every eight minutes to settle disputes about who had what toy when, or whether or not they can have a(nother) bag of chips or to beat their little hands away from the sugar dish.

So there you are. The news, in (not a bit) brief. Knitting happened, but I'm too tired and disorganized to find the digital camera and take a picture right this minute. The star in the center of the front/back gave me *major* trouble, because I, like my beloved Harlot, cannot count to seven (or any other number) reliably. As in, "Do five repeats of this pattern, THEN do this other thing once, then five repeats of the pattern again."

One...two...three...something...was that a puppy?...six...ten...

...wait...