Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And then, The Stupid ate me

Today. Was. So. STUPID.

There. I said it. Today was one of those days that end up being a nearly complete waste of time, a day wherein nothing wants to just go right, a day when, upon coming to the end of it, you still totally are not done.

First of all, I inexplicably woke up at – I kid you not – about 1:30 a.m. And then I couldn’t get back to sleep. I wasn’t just restless, I was wired. Heart racing, WIDE awake, not exactly ‘rarin’ to go’ but feeling more like 9 a.m. than 2 a.m., you know?


So I stubbornly stayed in bed anyway until about 2:30, when I finally admitted that getting back to sleep was simply not going to happen, got up, and worked on a reconcile-to-accounting that isn’t going at all well for me overall.

Because 2:30 in the gah-dahn morning is the perfect time to work on something frustrating that has thus far resisted the efforts of about five different people to figure out.

…oh, but it CAN’T be the source system, see, because we balance that sucker every single month…(ya, well, then, how come it doesn’t balance NOW, huh? huh? HUH?!)

Meanwhile, I had two meetings today that were in-person. Which was bad news for me because The Husband is traveling for business today, which means that I am the sole parental unit and thus must be available for both the morning hand-off and the evening hand-off.

So the earliest I can get into the office is around 9:30, and then I have to jet outta there by 2:30 to (reliably) get home by 5:30.

I left at 7:00 this morning, missed the ACE train by a handful of moments, which as it turned out was good because, well, I’ll get to that.

It took 90 minutes to get to BART (versus 30 minutes at my ‘normal’ hour), and then I began the desperate, pathetic circling looking for a parking space, while casting a resentful eye at the whole entire EMPTY lot of ‘permit only before 10:00 a.m.’ spaces.

It took me forty minutes – FORTY. MINUTES. – to find a parking space.

And I had to drive to a different BART station to get it.

So, I finally staggered into the office at ten o’clock in the morning.

Having already been up for over eight hours.

Which is why I had already consumed about four double shots of espresso.

So I walked into the (formerly) quiet little office like this:







!!!!!     I’M     JUST      SAYIN’   !!!!!














(…eeeeeeeeeeyeah…I’m sure my coworkers just love it when I inject enough caffeine into my system to simulate jet fuel…because obviously, my “normal” level of bouncy-spazzy energy just isn’t bouncy enough)

(yeah, it’s true, I generally run to the…excessively cheerful and/or friendly and/or forcefully passionate about picayune data-details nobody ELSE cares about and/or ridiculously energetic side most of the time and can’t seem to hold onto Some Other Persona [like, maybe, I dunno, a sane, PROFESSIONAL person…] at work for any length of time…I know, that probably comes as a complete shock, seeing as how I am so dull and placid and mature and other boring adjectives on the blog here…)

So basically, I arrived just in time for my first meeting. And my manager was pinging me (poor man, he got about eight seconds of my attention and then I was all “flit! flit! flit!” to meetings), and then there was a lot of intense “blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!” among various parties, and while a lot of it was useful information for some of us, there was also a certain amount of cross-purposes going on.

Which is bound to happen when the overall communication about what we’re doing is a bit iffy. Person 1 thinks we’re talking about apples, Person 2 thinks it’s oranges, and Person 3 is sharing photos of their cat and can’t understand why everybody keeps saying “OK, so, um, let’s move on…” because isn’t this all about sharing cat pictures?!

And then it was 2:30 so I walked out of the last meeting before it was technically over to head for the train so that I could get home in time to let Vanessa the Great leave on time and what do you mean, ‘major delays,’ BART…?

Because there was a fire ‘near’ the tracks, basically BART went into a catatonic state. So my Dublin-bound train suddenly turned into a MacArthur-bound train (MacArthur not being on the Dublin line at all)…and we all got off the train and milled around uncertainly and then it turned out that when the operator had said to go “upstairs” (which led not to another platform, but to, uh, the exit…?) to wait for the Dublin trains to eventually start up again, he meant go “downstairs” so most of us missed the one and only Dublin train to enter that station for a long, long time.

But I caught the next Fremont one.

And then I got off at Bayfair to wait for the Dublin train.

And waited.

And waited.

Announcements about ‘recovering from’…still waiting…two Fremont trains go through…some train that doesn’t stop…another Fremont train…eight cars, nine cars, six cars…

Eventually, a four car Dublin train pulled in, carrying approximately half the population of the Bay Area, seeing as how it was the first Dublin-bound train in about six days.

NOW. If I had caught the ACE train this morning? I would have been sunk. I would have missed that train home and been an hour later than I wanted to be.

BUT, thanks to the happy badness that was missing it? Well, I hopped into my car and drove home through traffic that was surprisingly less awful than I expected, and skidded in the door just in time to allow Vanessa the Great to leave on time, which gave me a temporary feeling of being a hero. YAY, ME.

Which feeling was promptly replaced with the aw, nuts, I SUCK feeling, because:

  • I never did send my manager the list of tables he wanted
  • There is laundry in piles all over the house - again
  • I also am still right where I was four days ago on, well, everything
    • Which means that I am now four days EVEN LATER with everything
    • …crap-apples…
  • The Denizens want dinner – I have nothing whatsoever ready to go
  • Too many things still don’t balance in the warehouse
  • Somebody needs a physical for some sport-thing or other, but I honestly can’t remember who
  • I still haven’t written the code to sweep the unbalanced things into a “these don’t balance, but, here they are, just, you know, understand that they don’t balance, OK?” bucket
  • My back started killing me this weekend, and it’s not getting better, it’s getting steadily worse and is beginning to impinge on my ability to do things like climb stairs and drive a car…I should probably go see my doctor, but a) I don’t have time and b) I inexplicably only remember that I “should” do so after business hours
  • PLUS, I haven’t even started the pulls for the actual “for real” load into the ‘final’ production warehouse, which is going to be due very soon…
  • …but of course, it’s going to be hard to do those loads if I don’t solve the problems that came up during this proof-of-concept run…
  • …AND, now the caffeine is starting to wear off, leaving me in a state where attempting to continue working is not merely going to end up being futile, but might actually be dangerous…if I’m ever going to hit ‘execute’ on an ill-advised TRUNCATE TABLE statement, it’s going to be when I’m like this, all bleary and exhausted and feeling like a certified loser (and thus like I have something to prove, which results in me being a stubborn moron, which leads to ill-advised swipes of the ‘execute’ button on code that never should have been written in the first place

Eh well. I think…what I’m going to do is…kick off the Big Mondo Pull Of Doom +10 Now With Loading All The Data There Ever Was and let it run overnight while I do something I can’t harm.

Like knitting a sock or something.

(…and that, children, is how Tama ended up knitting an elephant trunk cozy that she thought was going to be a sock for Eldest…)

When Dies The Viking Fly

The other evening, Captain Adventure erupted into my bedroom in a state of extreme agitation. He was so distraught that he lost almost all ability to speak – he was shrieking, hitting himself on the head, and stomping in an agitated circle, caught in a deadly trap of desperately wanting and needing my help, but unable to communicate well enough to get anything more than a startled but otherwise blank stare from me.

When he’d settled down enough to use words again, he informed me (still at a high-pitched shriek) that there was a @^*&@ing fly, it was a stupid, STUPID, @^*&@ing fly!



Now, what I was hearing was the Great Grand-Daddy Bad Word – the F-dash-dash-dash, not-fudge, ohmygah, here it is, my own occasional potty-mouth outbursts coming home to roost at last…!

But at the same time, well, there was just something…I just wasn’t sure that was what I was actually hearing. Himself remains rather difficult to understand at times, and when he’s upset like that even I have a hard time figuring out what he’s trying to say.

So I kept asking, “The what fly?!” and he kept saying @^*&ing and I’d say “The WHAT fly?!?!” and he would look at me as if he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry and yell it again.

You can imagine how irritating it was for him that I was so fixed on the word you said before you said fly. This is not the point, Woman. The point is, something about a fly. Focus, dammit, focus!

About four repetitions in, he started making a curious hand gesture as he said the word: He would put his hands to either side of his head and swoop upward.

About the third time he did it, it clicked. Horns. Hat with horns. Viking.

I KNOW, RIGHT?! I too had never realized how much the word ‘Viking’ can sound like that other word until that very moment, when I started to say to myself, Geesh, ‘Viking’ doesn’t sound anything like…oh…wait…you know? it kinda DOES sound like it a little, doesn’t it…and then I repeated it to myself about fifty times until the two were practically indistinguishable from each other and then I said to myself, “Um, Self? Can we move on now, because, seriously? You’ve been fixated on this for an awfully long time here…”

(Random Trivia Moment: Did you know that Vikings did not wear horned helmets into battle [or anywhere else, for that matter]? They wore plain old helmets like anybody else with a lick of common sense [can you imagine how often you’d be at the repair shop if you wore something with sticky-outy bits all over the place, let alone into melee combat?!]. BUT, it would appear that some big shot wore one at some point to some big event and somebody [probably a Roman, because Lord, they recorded everything they ever saw] wrote about it and thus it was that somehow, we collectively decided that all Vikings wore helmets with horns, and that’s how you knew they were Vikings, DUH.)

“There’s a Viking fly?” I asked.

“YES! A STUPID, STUPID VIKING FLY!!!!!” he screamed.

Much confusion later, it turned out that there was a fly on his window. He had smacked said fly into Fly Valhalla, but, the mortal remains had fallen onto his bed…and disappeared.

And the thought of spending the night cuddled up with a dead fly did not appeal to His Bossiness (picky, picky, picky). So he wanted me to come find the fly, and dispose of it.

Which I did by the simple expedient of changing his sheets, because they needed it anyway and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of trying to find a dead fly among dark blue sheets.

And I chuckled to myself the whole time. Viking fly. Heh.

Now mind you, I’m pretty sure what he meant was the other word, and definitely the sentiment was the other word, and that we simply got a free pass thanks to his own speech-and-language issues; somebody says ‘^&@^*ing,’ apparently he hears Viking.

For now.

(dramatic music begins to play in the background…eventually, we all know the boy WILL pick up Bad Words and begin to ‘season’ his sentences with them, and we will be faced with trying to instill Socially Acceptable Language Rules on him and he will be all like ‘la la la I’m autistic and I don’t understand what the problem is, it doesn’t bother ME that I put the word ‘@^*&@’ in front of every.thing.else.I.say….)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You’d think they’d know better by now

I saw a little snake – wait. Let me rephrase that. I saw the tail-end of a little snake whipping back under the fence, from whence he was thinking about entering our yard but then took a quick look around and there I was and then he was all, “AAAAAAAAAAAAH! HUMAN! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! SHE’S GONNA KILL MEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!” when he saw me looming over him with that nasty looking shovel-thing.

(For the record, the shovel was for digging potatoes, not whacking at snakes. Because I haven’t even seen a snake around these here parts in, oh, what, at least three years? So, I hardly walk around with Snake Killing Equipment on my person at all times in the first place, and also tend to view having a persistently-there snake on my property more as a sign that I have a bigger problem [like, say, cockroaches if the snake is little or mice/rats if it’s fair-sized] rather than as an ‘I have a mortal enemy that I must kill immediately’ throw-down.)

And then he zipped back under that fence faster than you can say, “AAAAAAAAAH! SNAKE!!!!”

He was there just long enough for me to catch Weird Movement out of the corner of my eye, register that a snake was looking at me, make that jumpy-startled movement humans tend to make when snakes appear out of nowhere, which then caused me to take a very unfortunate misstep that led to cracking my knee rather hard on the edge of the raised box I was (rather awkwardly) standing on while digging out the red potatoes.

YA KNOW, I hate stuff like that. Before I had even gotten my hand to my knee to rub at it, I’d already gotten over the scare – this was a really little guy, and the markings were all wrong for a rattlesnake. And I’m not particularly afraid of snakes (although you’re not going to catch me trying to pick them up with my bare hands – or, um, at all, actually – so, I’m not exactly buddy-buddy with them, either).

BUT WHENEVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS, I jump like Satan Hisself just popped! out of a dark closet yelling, “TAX FILING!!!” And I make some ill-advised jump or even dash a few steps away (straight through anything that might be between me and my randomly-determined trajectory), my heart is revving like a race car and I’m sweaty all over and then I’m all, like, “Oh. Well. That’s just a little gopher snake for heaven’s sake…!”

…it would be nice if I could do that last part first, and not even go through the whole stress-monkey jumpy bit at all…

Anyway, I promptly forgot all about him until one thing led to another and I was all, oh yeah, I meant to double check because I’m PRETTY sure that was a gopher snake, but, I always think EVERY snake that isn’t a rattler is a gopher, buuuuuut, didn’t he have STRIPES not DIAMONDS, wait! so, maybe a whip? or a racer? hmmmmm…

And that’s why I was sitting here flipping through pictures of snakes trying to identify which snake the 1/4” of fast-moving tail I actually saw might have belonged to (Futility: I refuse to acknowledge it.)when Boo Bug wandered in.

And this is where I marvel at my children and their ability to never figure out that asking things like, “What are those holes on the side of its head?” of either of their parents is a very bad idea…unless they want a forty-minute lecture on pit vipers v. coral snakes with occasional digressions into exotic snakes that don’t live around here, sea-going snakes, what snakes eat and what eats snakes.

Oh well. I think we both learned a lot about snakes tonight.

But I still don’t have a positive ID on my little visitor; probably a garter snake, possibly a striped racer…oh well. I doubt he’ll be back. Because here, there be giants – and the giants have shovels

Friday, August 24, 2012

In which a time out is called

This week, we finally pushed most of the data we’ve been compiling / calculating / re-calculating / testing and otherwise fussing with into the proof-of-concept server.

I’m really surprised it went as well as it did – but not a bit surprised that it didn’t go perfectly and that there are still quite a few Sticky Points we need to get through.

I’ve been working on those sticky points all day; then, about an hour ago, I became aware that I had obviously reached (and shot past, and was now the next county over from) the point of diminishing returns on the whole thing.

Stick a fork in me, cuz I am DONE.

I’ve been sleep deprived, eating poorly, stressing out and otherwise making a basket-case of myself for going on three weeks now; it’s time to let it go for a while.


I have a bit of catching up to do this weekend; a lot of the potatoes are done, the green beans have started coming in, the cucumbers are out of control, by now the louffa may have taken over the neighbor’s yard…I haven’t been monitoring the squash beetle problem in the butternut squash or making sure the okra doesn’t get big enough to use as canoes.

But that will have to wait until tomorrow; I’m exquisitely tired right now, in a way that has far less to do with mere yawning and more to do with the feeling that if I try to “accomplish” even one.more.thing. today, I may burst into hysterics.

Tomorrow is another day – but for the rest of day? I’m going to sit here (or there, or somewhere) and do as close to nothing as I can make myself get.

Happy Friday, y’all – hope you have a restful, rejuvenating weekend!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

An Explanation As To A Certain Pungent Odor In The Building Today

So, The Powers That Be™ have been threatening since, like, FOREVER to no, really move us to a ‘flexible’ work space.

(We’ve had a…sort of…flexible…well, actually, I’ve been sitting in a poached seat between two people in the row destined to be a flex-space, you know, after they had finished out their final couple weeks before being TERMINATED)


(but, not as awkward as me parking in one of their chairs before they were gone, because on my first day the project manager had waved his hand at the row and said “First come first serve, this whole section is the ‘flex’ seating…” and there was the ‘welcome to your flexible space! tidy up after yourself, don’t be a jerk! isn’t this awesome? yes it is! and also, here’s some desk sanitizer! yay, flex space!’ propaganda everywhere, but then it turned out no it wasn’t, actually, they were the desks of people on the countdown to I JUST GOT CANNED, hahahaha, yeah, sorry about that, dude, they, um, kinda told me that…cough-cough…these seats were…OK, you know? I’m just…gonna…move, now…TO ANOTHER BUILDING OR SOMETHING BECAUSE WOW, IS IT SUDDENLY REALLY HOT IN HERE, OR IS IT JUST ME…?!?!”)

Ahem, anyway…apparently over the weekend, Stuff happened. Among them, a (somewhat inexplicable, because there was nothing wrong with anything that was already in place) rearranging of the hardware.

Which is why this morning I found a different keyboard at the desk I have been gravitating to since about my second week. (Because I HAPPENED to know that the guy who formerly sat there was no really GONE gone…because he had taped his cut-up access badge to the monitor. Subtle clues: I detect them.)

About thirty minutes into my day (and about forty cuss words because the keys were sticking an awful lot) I peered into the dark recesses under the keys and thought, huh, that looks a little dirty, doesn’t it…

So I turned it upside down and gave it a shake.

Sweet mother of mercy…how many eyebrow hairs (I presume) can one person shed into a keyboard?!?!

OMG, apparently, it’s a LOT…!

(And the pink stuff? I’m pretty sure it was frosting of some sort. But I didn’t do any scientific research on it. Because, EW.)

Then, as I squeamishly dabbed All That into the trash with a tripled-up napkin (which squeamishness is really funny coming from somebody like me, who will do things like kick aside an unfortunately-piled stack of horse poop while wearing sandals and won’t let the fact that I have no gloves handy stop me from hand-picking the squash beetles off the butternut squash), I was hit with one of my weird must…disinfect…ALL…the things…! spasms.

And that’s why the ENTIRE FLOOR – nay, the entire BUILDING - smelled of sanitizer today.

The end.


Monday, August 20, 2012

(Yet Another) Lost Weekend

I spent the entire weekend in my home office. The entire weekend. Not just sunup to sundown, but before-sunup to holy-crap-it’s-tomorrow.

In related news, it never ceases to amaze me how exhausting things like this can be. I was as bone-tired this morning as I am after I put myself through one of those brutal “today, I moved 137 wheelbarrows full of clay all by myself!” kind of days in the garden (well, minus the groaning and walking funny due to muscle pain)…but all I actually did, physically anyway, was park my arse in an admittedly far-less-comfortable-than-it-used-to-be chair and alternate between going “typity-typity-typity” on a keyboard and glaring at the screen. Why you no numbers I want see, eh?

I sat in this chair for so long over the weekend I started worrying about blood clots, bedsores and loss of muscle mass.


Yeah. I’m pooped. Not enough sleep, not enough moving-around, not enough sunlight, dammit…it’s been a helluva weekend. When I filled out my weekly timesheet, I discovered that I had a 75 hour workweek last week.

I checked my numbers, like, eight times. (And also noticed that the three days I was in the office were all nice, compact little 8 to 8.5 hour days – whereas my work from home days? 10, 12, 14 hours at a stretch. Hopefully, none of the Powers That Be will notice this, because I suspect they would put me on an “always work from home” schedule so fast, which would be awesome from the perspective of “I don’t hafta drive / train / blah blah blah” but unfortunately, knowing myself as I do, would definitely end in “…and that’s how I ended up working twelve hour days every day!” situation because disengaging from This Stuff, I am not good at it.)

In related news, my house looks like holy hell. I can’t find half of the towels. The kitchen looks like a bomb went off in it, and, there’s nothing ready to eat around here. What’s for dinner? Beats the heck out of me, gang.

And I don’t care what is on fire: I am !!!!!NOT!!!!! working this coming weekend. Enough is enough, and I’m frankly getting just a leeeeetle tired of this outfit and its tendency to not communicate things well at all, followed by suddenly dropping enormous amounts of work due, like, yesterday or we’re all fired.

Y’all know how I am. First they come to me with some crazy re-re-re-re-re-re-direction of, well, everything. That walk up to me and confidently, even cheerfully go, “!!!!!!!”

Where “!!!!!!!” boils down to “we want you to throw out everything you’ve already done and start over, this time doing it in mauve (which we just learned from the Interwebz has more RAM), and we also want these eighteen new things I am totally sure I told you about [ed: no, no you didn’t, actually] oh, YOU remember, a long, LONG time ago [ed: not-UH, dude] and it all has to be ready for them to pick up in production by end of day tomorrow! YAY US!”

And I say, “Dude. Read my lips, I’m not gonna tell you this again: We need at least four days to code all that, plus probably a good 6,000 hours of continual server-time to get that done. It cannot possibly all be done by end-of-day Friday. CAN. NOT. POSSIBLY. HAPPEN.

And then they say, “WAH! Because !?!? you said it was already done [ed: I have learned not to say anything is finished, ever – including my lunch hour because whatever the actual target of the statement is will be replaced with whatever the audience most wants to be finished, thus resulting in a massive spaghetti-bowl of he-said-she-said WITH OF COURSE the Management™ siding with whoever’s version agrees with their desired reality] and I promised them IN WRITING that it would be there and please-please-please and Mr. Manager said ‘@*^&@*^&@(*^&@!!!!’ and THEY WON’T ACCEPT THOSE DATES!!! [ed: I’m so sorry that they believe the laws of time and space do not apply to them…why don’t you tell them to hop on out their window [ed2: on the 33rd floor] and fly [ed3: because OF COURSE THEY CAN! Why not, since time and space and also PHYSICS are not laws they have studied!] over to the Never-Never Land Complaint Office and file their grievance on this deal?] and here, have a couple helpers! They can pull data too! [ed: that’s exactly as helpful as saying, ‘Oh, you’re having trouble walking from San Francisco to New York in sixteen hours? Here! Let’s have these toddlers walk with you! So, you’re good now, right? Totally going to make it, because they’re walking too!’] and waaaaaaaaaah, I’M GONNA GET FIRED OVER THIS!!!!!!!!!

And then, well, I feel sorry for them. No matter how many times I say to myself, “This is the very last time, next time? You are on your own, pal!” and make Resolutions around how I’m going to let people make their own beds and sleep in them blah blah blah…I then turn right around and feel sorry for them.

So then I say, “{…sigh…} OK, tell you what, lemme take a look at this thing and see if there’s anything I can do…”

And then I start looking at it.

And then I get absorbed in it.

And then I start taking it personally that I can’t do this, because, really, it should be possible…heck, at MegaBank? We processed twice this much data every night, THAT’S RIGHT, EVERY STINKIN’ NIGHT, and we did it in six (6) hours, not six DAYS like THIS place

And then some hours later, I pull a rabbit out of my hat.

Which doesn’t help us at all, because what we needed was reconciliation against SAP for the months of September and October 2010. The rabbit has NO IDEA what the balances were in SAP in September or October of ANY year, let along 2010 specifically.

Useless rodent.

So then I take it even more personally, and time passes, and the next thing you know I’m wandering around squinting because there is this enormous ball of fiery light in the sky what IS that thing, anyway?!, with my hair fifteen feet long and there are flying cars and everything is chrome and what the heck year is it, anyway?!?!

But I got at least something figured out. And the puzzle itself was usually pretty fun to work on. Which, combined with that stupid over-protective tendency of mine, pretty much guarantees that I will always be a sucker for weekends like these; instead of doing the rational thing and saying, coolly, “If you wanted it like that, you should have been clear about it three weeks ago. You can’t just walk up to me three days beforehand, throw a bunch of new crap at me and expect it to somehow, maybe by MAGIC, get done by end of day three days from then. Pffffft!”, I’ll end up going, “Hmmm…let me see what I can do on that…”

Maybe I’ll just get a t-shirt with a post-it that says “Kick Me” screened onto it. Geez.

But…at the same time…I have to admit: I did rather rock it this weekend. What I actually accomplished was pretty epic, if I do say so myself.

Buuuuuuuuut, also kind of boring for anybody who isn’t into getting around database server limitations, bad coding practice, redundancy, lack of documentation and figuring out how to eke another couple thousand rows per second out of a load process.

So…let’s just leave it right there. It was a long but rewarding weekend, the end.

(You’re welcome.)

(And man, I really am bushed…I think I’m gonna hit the showers and then go to frickin’ bed…!)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Socks and Rugs And Edible Petals

It’s been a while since there has been a picture of a work in progress artfully draped over a keyboard. HEY LOOK, IT’S A SOCK!
August Sock

This is your basic plain-vanilla stockinette sock, made with JoAnn ‘Sensations’ Bamboo & Ewe (55% wool, 15% rayon from bamboo, 30% nylon) – the perfect knitting project for trains, planes, automobiles, doctor’s offices, and other places that combine endless tedious waiting with a sudden need to scurry-scurry-scurry.

I haven’t actually been knitting much lately, because, well, I was cleaning out a cupboard? And there was this enormous box in there? And in the box, there was this latch hook rug kit that a friend gave me approximately 300 years ago, because she did about four rows on it and said to herself, Yeah, um, I choose LIFE?! and had then herself put it in a cupboard and ignored it for approximately 300 years before it suddenly dawned on her that “Tama” and “Tedious Craft Projects” obviously go together like peanut butter and jelly and thus it became mine.

This is also why I own about six thousand crochet hooks in sizes ranging from “are you sure that isn’t a bobby pin?” to “huh, didn’t know you could crochet with an oar!” even though I can’t crochet to save my life, and a vast amount of coned cobweb-weight yarn designed for knitting machines I don’t actually own. (Well. This is actually a combination of people immediately thinking of me whenever they find themselves confronted by large boxes of hand-crafting supplies from Great Aunt Maribelle’s estate, and my pack-rat tendencies on such matters. I have tried to make myself let go of some of that yarn, but every time I go through it I end up putting it right back in the cupboard because upon reflection, it would make a rather nice [shawl, baby set, t-shirt if I had a knitting machine capable of using cobweb-weight yarn with breaking it every half-inch, etc.].) (But I digress.)

So…guess what I’ve been working on in my “sitting on my rump” time lately?


It’s hard to tell how big it is, huh…tell you what. Here’s an eight year old boy for scale.

Boy for Scale

And this is an eight year old boy about to claim the rug as his own and run off with it to his room, giggling madly all the way:


For some reason, Captain Adventure was positively captivated by watching me make this rug. While he had absolutely zero interest in actually trying his hand at latch hooking himself, he was fascinated by the latch hook tool, keenly interested in my progress, would nag me about it whenever I was caught doing something else, and would brighten like a freshly-lit candle when he walked into the room and found that I was attending to business.

“Oh! You’re finally doing it!” he would announce, as if it had been years and years and YEARS since I had last put first things first.

Ahem, yes. Always good to have managerial input…and it’s always fun when our Captain gets it into his head that you need managing on something. I tell you what, if you take the normal eight-year-old bossy (which is plenty bossy all on its own, thank-you-very-much), spread a layer of is a Leo over it and then dip the whole thing in a vat of autism, you end up with Mr. Bossy McBosser-Pants TellUWhatToDo on your hands.

Very early on, he informed me that it would be for his room because he liked it. He’s got a thing for plants in general, and he’s always rather liked flowers.

Because they are colorful. And also not vegetables, which, you know…being neither French fries nor cookies…are pretty much useless as far as he’s concerned.

Little does he know…I planted some nasturtiums.

Which are edible flowers.

So I’m planning to start sprinkling them over salads once they’re blooming.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Money Monday: August 13, 2012

So, we have a big ugly drought going on, ripping through our corn and soybean crops like a hot knife through butter. And we have begun to hear the rumblings from various sources that we may start to see higher food prices – not just on corn and soybean products, but on everything.

The Experts™ are coming up with all kinds of predictions, dire and otherwise, about the eventual percent-rise of said costs.
Those predictions do not matter at all.

Let me say that again: What ‘everybody’ is saying about how much food costs are about to rise do not matter one little bit when it comes to the question of what you, personally should or should not do in response to this impending train wreck.
So, let’s take a deep, calming breath, and a big step back from the whole mess, and attempt to apply some logical thinking to the problem, shall we?

Now, what we can know for sure is this: Yes. Prices on a wide variety of things are going to go up. They are already starting those first tiny hiccups, as goods and services that are closely linked, in the here-and-now, to those various products (mostly but not only corn) that are suffering the most – the biggest part of the show is probably between four and ten months out, which is when the manufacturers who are currently using up the corn syrup and so forth from last year’s crops will start having to actually pay through the nose for this year’s scrawny, sorry example of a so-called harvest, phooey on it.
Does this automatically mean that you need to do something drastic?

Eh, maybe…maybe not.
The first thing to do is to stop and ask yourself what All This really means for you.

I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter lately about buying a super-sized freezer and packing it with all kinds of meat ‘to save money during the crisis.’ To which I say, whoa up, there, pardner.
Freezers cost money. They cost money to buy, even if you’re getting a really good deal off Craig’s list or something. And they cost money to operate, too – anywhere from $100 to $200 a year, depending on waaaay too many factors to try to list out here but including things like how old the unit is, how well you pack and maintain it, how hot the garage where it is probably kept gets, and so forth.

So let’s say you get a $200 freezer from Craig’s list and it costs you $150 a year to operate – if you use it for just one year, you need to save around $29 a month to make it work out for you.
Let’s further say you’re currently buying $10 in beef each week, and your goal in buying the freezer is to avoid paying more for it. If the cost of beef goes up by 4% (which is one of the many predictions), that $10 will become $10.40 – an additional $1.60 a month. If it goes up by 10% (which is the highest prediction I’ve seen, and which came with all kinds of…rather intense…political commentary soooooo, BIG grain of salt), you’re looking at $1 more a week, or $4 a month.

If you’re only going to do this while the crisis is on, you need another $25 a month in savings to make it worth your while.
Which is really my point: Don’t rush into very large lifestyle changes because of one event.

I tell you what: It feels weird to warn people off rushing to bulk buy. Personally I’ve found it to be a tremendous budget-booster, and it has actually sheltered me from the worst of the recent inflations that have hit others pretty hard. The price of my raw materials has barely budged, really…and even things that have gone up a lot by percentage haven’t moved much by dollars paid.
But if you want to really make this pay for you, it’s not just a reaction to this one crop failure; it’s not something you’re going to do now, then toss aside in eighteen to twenty-four months when the prices have settled back down.

To make it really pay off, it’s a lifestyle. And I really wouldn’t recommend rushing into it whole-hog (whole hog! freezer! ha!), either. Because those savings don’t come free, my friends, they come by way of work, and plenty of it.  You don’t get to just come home, unload the groceries and call it a day – oh no. At the very least, you can add “repackaging for freezer” to your to-do list before you can call yourself done. You have to make sure you maintain good rotation in the freezer, too – otherwise, you end up with The Forgotten Roast surfacing ‘at some point long after it should have been used.’ Yet another thing you have to do when on the whole you’d really rather be doing anything else.
Each step you take down the path adds more and more chores to your list. Having grains in bins means inspecting the bins from time to time, to make sure no moths or mold or other harmful things have gotten in there. (And they do, no matter how careful you are – eventually, you will pop a lid off one of those buckets and get hit in the face by escaping moths.)

And of course, buying raw ingredients in bulk means more cooking from scratch – which means more time in the kitchen, which means again less time on your backside. And it always sounds ‘easy’ and ‘no big deal’ when you’re talking yourself into it (with hints of ‘nostalgia’ and ‘domestic bliss’) – but then, well, it’s Wednesday night and work was a killer and @*^&@, I forgot to defrost anything, um, well, we could have nope out of that how about ugh, bugs got in it! OK, how about see: forgot to defrost anything, above well…I guess I’ll do the old “defrost ground beef in the skillet by scraping bits of it off the block as it thaws” trick…
Nights like that will kind of take the shine off the whole thing – and if you don’t actually want to be doing All This but are only in it because there was this corn-thing a couple years ago? So, you bought all this meat, which is still in the freezer?

There is no shine to it. It’s just painful, pure and simple. And a few such painful experiences later, that freezer is just sitting out there in the garage running and running and running, and all you ever do is glare at it resentfully as you pass by.
At which point, you’re losing money in the long run.

Now, if I were to place bets today on where the pain is most likely to be felt hardest by most people? It wouldn’t really be in meat. It would be in things like crackers and canned chili – those ubiquitous boxes and cans everybody has in their pantry, which we’re accustomed to popping open and serving up alongside whatever is “for dinner.”
The prices of those are going to go up, too; it won’t be commented upon like increases in milk and dairy will be (because those things are tracked and reported upon by Da Gummint), but given that corn syrup is in everything these days…I’d expect a $2.99 box of crackers to be $3.49 pretty quickly. And quietly. We might not even notice – even if we do, we might fuss for a little bit, the first couple weeks, but then we quickly adjust to the higher price and no longer even notice. $3.49 is the new ‘regular’ price, and we toss them into our basket without a second thought.

If you want to win the ‘I didn’t get my backside handed to me during The Great Corn Crop Failure Crisis of 2012™’ game – I’d say think that second time. Look at what you’re buying, pay attention to how much you pay per ounce or serving, consider how many servings you really get from a box that says it has ‘12 servings’ in it.
Don’t let them ‘sneak’ a 20% price increase in on you, either by raising the price or putting fewer ounces of product in the same-sized box. And don’t feel like you “have” to pay it, either. There are always alternatives. Some are as easy as switching to a generic brand; some are as challenging as ditching ‘everything that comes in a box’ for home-made alternatives or just deciding not to eat whatever-it-is anymore.

But above all else, don’t rush to stock up just because you’re afraid of rising grocery prices. It’s been my personal experience that doing that kind of thing only because of a one-time event really doesn’t pay – it’s only if you’re making a long-term commitment to a bulk-bought lifestyle that you really come out ahead on that deal.
Simply being aware of what you buy, and why you buy it, and what your other choices might be goes a lot further toward sheltering you from higher prices, good times or bad, than buying up a freezer you don’t really need and filling it up with meat you won’t actually eat.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

YET MORE PROOF that I am mentally about TEN

"Oh gracious," I said, resting a hand on my chin in solemn, adult-like scholarly fashion. "There was an earthquake off the coast of Oregon? Do tell..."

I opened the email.

And then, eye fell on the event ID...

...and then I sniggered for about half an hour..., I really don't know what we're going to do with me, either...

IN OTHER, I'm opening the new business acount, right? And we have had more than a couple back-n-forths because of forms and things.

GET. THIS. I had drafted up a nine-page operating agreement (with myself, mind you, because I'm the SOLE member) that I was already thinking might be a little too lacking in detail for Official Entities such as banks, who tend to want things verrrrrrry official all the time. But since I rather WANT to leave my options open in terms of what I'm "allowed" to do, well, I thought I'd just try to sneak it in.

Yeah. It was rejected by the auditors TWICE because they feel they found 'discrepencies' in how it would be managed. "It says MANAGER on the operating agreement, but MEMBER on the state filing."

{blank stare}

We then had a couple rounds of "no it doesn't" "yes it does", and then the "are you QUITE sure you aren't looking at some OTHER form?" discussion and then? They sent me basically a blank operating agreement that met their rigorous standards for such things.

Which consists of one (1) line of plain text that says "This company is member-managed. Sincerely, Me. Sole Member."

Nothing about our fiscal calendar. Nothing about bookkeeping practices. Nothing about if/how we pay expenses, taxes, members, or anything else. In short, it is like writing, "Trust me! Whatever it is I do? I do it!" and calling it a business filing.

Oooooooookay. Well. Glad we got that out of the way. And now we can all feel SO MUCH SAFER, because thus is America protected from the terrorists who would otherwise be opening up "business" bank accounts left, right and center with vague documentation, misdirecting the banks around what tax forms might be due to Da Gummint at what points in time, I...have this...BACKWARDS...somehow...?

Monday, August 06, 2012

From a distance

This is Al. (Short for Albert. Because he was purchased to replace Vicky The Purple Civic after her fatal run-into by a large diesel truck. And we are very odd people who will make Vicky => Victoria => Albert connections, and then promptly only refer to him as Al. WELCOME TO AMERICA.)

Al is getting a long-overdue tuneup and oil change today.

And I was noticing that, from a distance - which causes all the dust and bird offerings to magically disappear - he doesn't look half bad for a car of over 100K.

So - to sum up: if you do not tailgate, your car will look approximately 10,000 times cooler.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Five Frugal Things

Pipney Jane started a meme that for some strange reason caught my interest. (No idea. None. I can’t explain why this meme caught my eye when 99.99% of all others end up on my “maybe later, by which I probably mean never” list.)

It may come as a complete shock, but I too have had that “uh…what…are you doing?” conversation with visitors a few times here and there, when they’ve caught me in the middle of some act that I don’t even think twice about anymore, but which to them is a kind of glimpse into a strange new world.

So, OK…here we go…I will attempt to think of five and ONLY five of my favorite every-day frugal things


This takes no more effort than sweeping the peelings / trimmings / egg shells / etc. into a bowl instead of the sink or trash can, and then dumping them into the worm tower in the garage instead of the trash tote. Each week I get up to a gallon of compost tea from the spiggot on the bottom of it (great for houseplants, and no, it doesn’t smell like rotting anything – if anything, it just smells like dirt), and about once a month in the warmer months I get a full tray – about five-ten pounds – of black gold for the garden.


This is pretty much identical to Pipney Jane’s ‘set asides’ – instead of making just one of something, I’ll make double, triple or even quadruple quantities: one to eat right then, the rest to freeze for later. It doesn’t often take triple the time to triple a given recipe, nor does it make triple the mess to clean up.

Waste not

I admit it: I’m one of those people who will add water to the “empty” shampoo bottle to get at least one more washing out of it. I push those itty-bitty slivers of soap into the new bar. Cut the ripped-up legs off jeans and call them shorts. I have a dozen ways to keep a bottle upside-down without falling over, so that I can let every last drop of whatever was in there drip out.

Advanced Laziness

Advanced laziness is an art, one that is frequently mistaken for hard work. When I spend a weekend cooking and filling up the freezer, people have a tendency to think I’m “working hard.”

Nah. It’s advanced laziness. By putting in this time now, I am actually buying myself tons of time when I’m going to want it the most – on those weeknights when the idea of having to stand up for even five more minutes is enough to make me want to cry. “Ha! Joke’s on you, Exhaustion, because dinner is already ready! I WIN!”

Be childish

I may be cheating a bit here – this is probably more of a philosophy than a simple action. But still, it’s one of my favorite every-day money-saving things, and it’s so very simple.

Instead of looking at things like a grownup – a segment of our species who tend to be rather set in their ways, prone to thinking they know what that is, it’s a {something boring and scientific}, and it is used for {something even more boring and pedestrian} – I try to look at things more childishly.

A grownup will see an empty #10 can as “recycling.” A child will see…a helmet. Or a fairy house. Or, a container garden. (You’d be amazed at the miniature container gardens you can build with empty #10 cans.)

Just looking at the things around you as if you didn’t know exactly what they were, and what they were for, looking at them playfully and as though you had just announced, “OK, new game!!” and were making up the rules right there on the spot – it both helps to keep the frustration of tedium at bay, and frequently leads to little flashes of inspiration that save money, or add a splash of uniqueness, or both, to something as ordinary as a kitchen towel or cardboard box.